Our Housing Crisis breaches our Human Rights Obligations

By   /   July 22, 2016  /   37 Comments

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The UN Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 25 that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their and their family’s health and well-being including housing. As a signatory to the Universal Declaration and a number of human rights treaties the New Zealand Government is bound to ensure every citizen has the human right to adequate housing

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The UN Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 25 that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their and their family’s health and well-being including housing. As a signatory to the Universal Declaration and a number of human rights treaties the New Zealand Government is bound to ensure every citizen has the human right to adequate housing. And the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights has defined seven standards that must be met for housing to be adequate – security of tenure; habitability; accessibility; affordability; availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure; location; and cultural adequacy. In summary the UN Committee defines the right to adequate housing as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity. To not provide adequate housing is a breach of the Government’s obligations.

Luther Vandross sang “A House is not a Home” which reflects the human rights perspective that everyone has the right to have a home. A house is a structure – nothing more, nothing less. It is a building in which people live. A home can be a structure, but it is more than that. It is a place that brings with it a sense of belonging.

Everyone has the right to have a home. And it is so essential – a home represents stability and the place you feel loved and valued. Home is a place of comfort and safety. Home is being around people you love and who love you too; your friends, family and support networks which is vital in the provision of care for our children and older family members. A person can have a home without owning the house. As the saying goes “home is where the heart is”.

But in New Zealand we no longer make a distinction between a house and a home. In New Zealand houses are commodities. Karl Marx defines commodities as a useful external object produced for exchange on a market. In a capitalist society those commodities are used as a means to accumulate money and therefore people acquire houses as commodities in order to transfer them at the right time for more money. And so the value of a house is in what it is worth – how much someone is prepared to pay for it.

According to the 2013 Census there were 33,330 vacant dwellings across Auckland. These include inner-city Auckland apartments and residences in Manly, Takapuna, Newmarket and Gulf Harbour which have the highest rate for empty or “ghost” dwellings.

For the owners of these “ghost” dwellings it is easier for these commodities to remain unoccupied rather than worrying about satisfying the needs of tenants. These owners don’t care about homelessness, they care about increased values of their investment commodities.

And so who should care? Our housing crisis damages lives, breaks up families, disrupts school life, blights employment prospects, reduces mobility and slows the economy. The Government absolutely has both an obligation and a responsibility to care. But this Government actually doesn’t care. Their philosophical position isn’t to guarantee that everyone has a home. If it were then they wouldn’t be selling 8,000 more state houses by 2017.

The reality is National has never supported providing homes through State Housing. National Governments have consistently either sold off state houses or raised rents to levels that reflect market rates. In an interview in October 2014 the then recently appointed Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand, Bill English, said proceeds from selling state houses are unlikely to be spent on new state houses and may go into the Consolidated Account. “I mean, if we want less stock, there’s not much point in rebuilding stock with it,” he said.

When National became government in 2008 there were over 69,000 State Houses. Today there are under 66,000 State Houses and currently 350 are on the market in Invercargill and another 1100 about to be sold in Tauranga as part of their Social Reform Housing programme.

This Government certainly doesn’t care about making sure all its citizens have a home. The Government treats a state house as a commodity, in the same way that the investors in the inner-city, Manly, Takapuna, Newmarket and Gulf Harbour do. They are happy to leave them vacant, to leave them in a state of disrepair or to sell them. And they do so in flagrant disregard of the over 4,500 New Zealand families that have navigated their system and been assessed as needing a State House and the 42,000 homeless New Zealanders.

The value in a house must be seen as its value as someone’s “home” if we are to address the housing crisis we are currently experiencing in NZ. We need all houses to be homes for New Zealand’s citizens and residents who live here. Because after all, this is directed at those most in need and those we describe as “homeless” not “houseless”.

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37 Comments

  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Louisa Wall god call there so we need first to try NZ Human Rights as it is a weak ineffective agency of Government sadly.

    But we have to lodge this firstly as a URGENT CASE BECAUSE OF HIGH PUBLIC INTEREST TERMS.

    PARHAPS A ENQUIRY WITH UN CONVENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IS SEEN AS MORE IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT IS REGARDED AS MORE “INDEPENDANT SO GO THAT WAY ALSO.

    NO TIME TO LOOSE AS PEOPLE ARE DYING OUT THERE PREMATURELY FROM EXPOSURE WE BELIEVE.

  2. CLEANGREEN says:

    Yes we can use this also I posted on the Mike teens blog for a solution here, read this

    http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2016/07/22/exclusive-taking-back-the-remuera-golf-course-some-thoughts-on-the-housing-crisis-and-possible-solutions-occupyremueragolfcourse/

    Also how about some of those swanky Omaha beach Hibiscus coast 10 acre beach homes to and SS Joyce’s lifestyle block also and all the farms own by these other senior ministers like Bullenglish?

    Plenty of free-up use using the public works act there to eh as they used to take all the Māori land during the 1880’s!

    Do you know there is a precedent under the human rights UN charter that if you can demonstrate a case of “adverse and differential treatment” to others you will win your case and I can not think of a better case here mike.

    Go for it using your Union Lawyers?

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Plenty of free-up use using the public works act there to eh as they used to take all the Māori land during the 1880’s!

      And more recently with Bastion Point . Refer the bulldozing and relocation of the Ngati Whatua family’s off their lands in recent history… even in Muldoon’s tenure.

  3. Michelle says:

    JK looks much younger in the picture but he seems to be aging fast. I wonder if its anything to do with all the porkies he has been telling. as he is now going bawled and his face shows signs of lots of wrinkles but his nose hasn’t grown yet like Pinochios

  4. Mike in Auckland says:

    The law stands on paper, and this government does only abide by the law if it is convenient for them. So we can go on and on about human rights, the government and John Key do not give a shit, even if they tell the public something else.

    Actuarial measurements are all that count, getting people off state support and into jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs, and to do business, business, business and ever more business, all else is just sentimental nonsense to them.

    It is time those on the left of centre get this, we have not got the means to take them to court, they have made it so hard for most to get legal aid, they have all the experts sit in legal agencies working for Crown Law, they have the money, the business sector, the wealthy and smart and cunning strategists behind them, to go on about human rights is just not going to achieve much, even when people like Louisa are right on it.

    We need action, we need people to be woken up, we need to get people take protest, strike and more robust street action, also online action, and so damned much more, to fight for justice.

    Sadly most have forgotten that all we have left as “rights” was once fought for, even with loss of blood, most are now too comfortable, or complacent and afraid, to take firm and effective action, and to make sacrifices, hence all the rights are being denied more and more people, and taken off us.

    Take action, boycott, block streets, occupy houses that stand empty, blockade the government ministers and MPs and create a revolution of sorts, that is if New Zealanders can be bothered, as too many are too busy with Pokemon Go.

  5. Mike in Auckland says:

    So what do you propose to do then, Louisa Wall?

    Are you going to join the squatters who take action and occupy vacant state houses or “homes”?

    Just telling people to be patient, to vote next election and to hope and pray that a hundred thousand homes that may be “affordable” for some be built over ten years will not address the present crisis. Nor will a thousand extra state or social homes a year achieve what is needed in a short time. And people will look at the baggage that comes with that policy when voting, so some will have second thoughts.

    I see NO answers proposed here, I am afraid, certainly NO immediate answers.

    • Andrea says:

      If she says anything National will both steal and subvert the notion – after doing their fake howls of derision, of course.

      The impetus and action must come from elsewhere.

      A solid strike on the candidates for the upcoming local body elections wouldn’t come amiss. (Should they ever bother to become visible to the electorate…)

      These issues: housing – and the stealthy attack through legislation brewing right now for strengthening the Local Body Commission, privatising publicly owned services, and stifling public interaction in local government.

      • fatty says:

        “If she says anything National will both steal and subvert the notion”

        Yes, but this only happens when Labour proposes something that is very centrist. For example, Cunliffe’s timid CGT at the last election was laughed away, but then Key implemented a similar CGT after getting re-elected (and after Little said he wouldn’t pursue a CGT). Now National sit to the left of Little in regards to CGT!

        Labour should only be afraid of releasing policy early if the policy is centrist. Labour’s ‘3 free years of tertiary education’ was a good policy that was released early. It left National scrambling and they failed to respond to it. But Labour didn’t follow up that policy with something for student debt, which is a necessity. As a result the ‘3 years free tertiary education’ policy lost its impact and Labour floundered.

        Labour’s goal should be to put out policy early and promote discussion on it. Thatcher’s biggest achievement was the creation of Blairism. Thatcher made UK Labour imitate her.

        Labour should aim to have National copy them, but Labour needs to offer more than third-way neoliberalism

  6. WILD KATIPO says:

    About a month or so I highlighted on TDB and also The Standard about being signatories of the U. N . Particularly I downloaded about a half of the U.N Convention on the Rights of a Child.

    It pretty much covered the abuse this govt is dealing to citizens of its own country.

    I suppose people either wrote it off as yet another opinion or plain failed to see the significance . Thank you for bringing this issue up , however.

    I would just like to see that the next time this govt attends a U. N summit that the glaring hypocrisy is at least shown up in blogs such as these.

    I certainly wont go repeating myself just to bang my head on a brick wall. That’s all I will say about the matter , except that my opposition to neo liberals extends not only to groups but to individuals as well.

    I don’t believe in messing around with deranged rabid dogs that will only turn around to bite you. We’ve had 32 years of this disease being spread by these vectors and I for one believe in cutting off the root of the tree – and not just playing around with a superficial pruning.

  7. Kim dandy says:

    I suspect no National party MP has taken part in the park-up for the homeless, as ‘there is no housing crisis.’
    Sadly I believe things are going to get worse before they get better.
    Any suggestion of taking this government to the UN over basically ‘abusing’ its citizens human rights, is a good one.

  8. countryboy says:

    I have only one thing to add. It’s not much of a thing but it’d be effective in its carriage. When I see jonky look like that? I’d love, more than anything , to kick him in what might be graciously considered his balls. His little, fluffy nuts. If I could swing a decent side swipe? I bet I could connect with both of them. A one swing, two ball contact kick that’d make the mincing little ninny squeak.

    • Andrea says:

      Countryboy: three words about your desire: ‘wether’ and ‘dog-tucker’.

      Let the picture form… 🙂

  9. Bert B says:

    This Government has lost its moral legitimacy. Snap election please.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      1000% BERT

    • Anne says:

      Better than that. Perhaps the Queen needs to know that our Prime Minister does not care about the homeless, due to demolishing thousands of State houses that once housed the lower income population. A no confidence vote in our Government and Prime Minister. Perhaps the Queen would be interested to know that!

  10. CLEANGREEN says:

    If you don’t want the legal route then we should call the “shanty town”
    “Keyville shantytown for the homeless” during then 2016 depression.

    That will set a precedent for our modern day 1930’s depression towns like “hooverville”.

    http://jaredandkelly.weebly.com/hoovervilleshanty-towns.html

    Hoovervilles and Shanty Towns

    The amount of shanty’s in a hooverville

    Due to the extreme financial downfalls of the 1930’s, people lost everything. This included businesses, property, jobs, and their precious land. With more and more people becoming homeless they had no where to go so they made shanty towns. “A Hooverville was a derogatory term used to describe the ramshackle towns that were built and inhabited by millions of homeless and unemployed people in communities across the United States during the Great Depression”(Bonk and Carson). The people who loved in these so called owns were very poor and had nothing left. These houses are called shanty’s. Hoovervilles were composed of houses made out of unwanted materials. The materials that the houses generally consisted of were scrap woods, old metal sheets, card board, and other scrap materials. Anything they could easily get their hands on, they would use to build their house. Their was a shocking amount of shanty’s in a Hoovervilles. This was due to a limited amount of people that could actually afford a house. Also, their were men that went on the road to find work. These men are called hobos or homeless men. They generally looked for jobs on the road and hitched rides on cargo trains to move across the country.

  11. Mike@nz says:

    There is nothing in the Universal Declaration of Human rights about the right to a house. There is the right to an adequate standard of living for oneself and ones family, the right to found a family and the right to own land, but nothing about the right to a house and especially not the ‘right’ to be provided with one at someone else’s expense.

    We must also bear in mind that the rights outlined are a right to equal opportunity to Aquire, not the provision of supply.

    Along with these rights also come responsibilities.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Thanks Mike@NZ

      The teacher of the hardboiled neolib awakening.

      But did you grow up when Walter Nash built on Micky Savage’s “a home for everyone” policy of building yet more State Homes to provide this right to have the state provide for its citizens?

      Oh sorry you don’t sound like you lived with a warm state home as I did at 16, and a job any day and when our “common Wealth” was shared EQUALLY!!!!

      THAT SOUNDS TO LEFT WING FOR YOU RIGHT?

      • Mike@nz says:

        No Mr Cleangreen, you are confusing rights with entitlements.

        Like I said, there is nothing in the Declaration Of Human Rights about a right to a house. There is mention of the right to own a home, if that is ones intention, but nothing of an outright right to own a house.

        It is interesting that at this time, I live in a home that a lot of your contemporaries would be envious of. It is also true that due to an ongoing drought (2 years long so far and looking like 3), and food commodity prices at the bottom of their price cycle, my otherwise stable business made a loss of $112000 for the last financial year. True story.

    • Anne says:

      And so we have a cold, uncaring attitude to those less fortunate. Should we care nothing that many children do not have a warm bed to sleep in at night? A conscience is the greatest asset that a human could give recognition to and honour, while in a physical body. Without that, we are nothing, absolutely nothing!

      • Mike@nz says:

        No, you misunderstand. I was merely stating what the UN Declaration Of Human Rights, the cornerstone of this article, covers and does not cover. It does not state a ‘right’ to a house.

        What if it did offer a right to a house. Everybody trying to save to afford a house of their own is at a different stage of their savings plan. Would it be right for the state to take some of those savings away to use it to pay for someone else’s house? What would that do to encourage those people trying to save for their own home? What of those who are prepared to save longer for a better house?

        Everybody in NZ already has the right to own a home, the problem we are trying to find a solution to at the moment is affordable housing. For a solution to that, we only need to look at zoning laws. Releasing land to build on to satisfy demand.

        For a first hand look at how unaffordable real estate effects the people and the community, look to the farmers in the dairy conversion areas of NZ. Auckland house prices have doubled since 2004 and economists tell us it’s a catastrophe, Canterbury farmland has trebled in value since 2001 and nobody gives a toss.

        • bert says:

          The housing crisis is one issue, National’s corruption is another.

          There is a sense of entitlement by this Government. We as a country and tax payers are entitled to a Government that is beyond reproach, not one that demands more alcohol to be served because they are a minister of the crown.

          http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10883127

          • Mike@nz says:

            That may well be your opinion, but unfortunately it contributes nothing to this discussion.

            • bert says:

              You see Mike, your opinion is also just that. Your financial loss also offers nothing to this discussion so be careful about throwing stones in glass houses.

              • Mike@nz says:

                The point of my financial loss story is that at this point in time, anybody who tells you they have ‘no money’ has exactly $112000 more than me, and that no matter how bad things get, the lower paid can rely on the safety net of a comprehensive welfare system, unlike the middle class, who only qualify to pay tax

                • comprehensive welfare system

                  You’ve never had to navigate the WINZ system, have you, Mike?

                  unlike the middle class, who only qualify to pay tax

                  The middle-class are entitled to welfare just as much as the poorer classes, Mike. They’re just luckier to avert the necessity to use it most of the time.

                  If, as you are hinting, the welfare system is somehow ‘broken’ (which it is) then instead of whining about it, why not do something to address the problem? A safety net is of f**k all use if it’s falling apart and fails when you, personally, need it.

                  A welfare net should be fully functioning and supportive, regardless of whether you, personally, need it.

                  • Mike@nz says:

                    It’s broken all right.

                    Any system that was originally intended & designed as a safety net that somehow allows in some cases multiple members of the same family to draw their main income for 3 generations almost continuously is most certainly broken, and in those cases amounts to bare faced exploitation of the taxpayer.

                    Any ideas on how we can put a stop to that to protect the integrity of the system and make it less cumbersome and more useful to those who truly need it?

        • bert says:

          “Releasing land to build on to satisfy demand.”

          The problem with this, is ACT’s David Seymour has stated that he does not want this for his electorate of Epsom. Anywhere else is alright. Elitism and neoliberalism has destroyed countries.

          “For a first hand look at how unaffordable real estate effects the people and the community, look to the farmers in the dairy conversion areas of NZ. Auckland house prices have doubled since 2004 and economists tell us it’s a catastrophe, Canterbury farmland has trebled in value since 2001 and nobody gives a toss.”

          So if farmland in Canterbury has trebled, why aren’t farmers selling up to make a good capital gain like house price rises in Auckland?
          For one, farms are businesses, houses are residential properties. You’d like to think your business will always grow, if you work that business. To have a house make a capital gain of anywhere from 100,000 too 250,000 within 2 months IS a catastrophe for the economy, just not for the investor.

          • Mike@nz says:

            Why aren’t farmers selling up to make a good capital gain? Because MOST farmers are in it for the long haul, a multi-generational haul. And therein lies the problem.

            Most classes of NZ farmland exceeded their productive value years ago, ie, the ability of the land to pay for itself through farming it in the conventional sense. It is now impossible in nearly all cases to save for a deposit, buy a farm and pay for it by farming it. Sound familiar?

            This situation was brought about by a few things, namely cheap money (low interest rates on borrowing), a boom in one particular sector totally disproportionate to others (dairying), intergenerational accumulated wealth and hungry urban investors. In short, well healed farmers were buying farms using a disproportionate amount of borrowed and other peoples money and converting to dairy to pay for it (or to raise equity).

            And the problem I referred to earlier? Family farm succession. If one child is interested in taking over the farm, it has become very difficult to impossible to pay out the non farming siblings their ‘entitlement’ based on inflated land values.

            The most likely outcome? Goodbye family farms.

        • Would it be right for the state to take some of those savings away to use it to pay for someone else’s house?

          But MikeNZyou’re ok with National borrowing billions to fund the tax cuts of 2009 and 2010?

          Because the money that came to fund those tax-cuts came from the savings of other people (from overseas, as it happens).

          So, you’re ok with that – but not for the State to put a roof over peoples’ heads?

          Really?

          • Mike@nz says:

            Mr Macskasey, It should not be the responsibility of the state to “put a roof over peoples heads”. Especially if their intention is to pay for it by forcefully taking money off one family to give to another. To do so would be as immoral as the tax cut/borrow scheme you accuse them of.

            It should be the states job to ensure there exists a legal system which gives everyone the opportunity to bid on a free market for the chance to own their own home if they so wish.

            While we continue to be governed locally under the resource management act by a bunch of self interested semi retired corrupt hacks masquerading as district councillors, I fear that will never happen

            • You have avoided responding to my question.

              • Mike@nz says:

                I did not avoid it. I answered it. I responded by calling the tax cut/ borrow scheme you referred to as immoral. Of course I’m not ok with it, I’m not a National party supporter at all, let alone a fair weather supporter.

                I am also not in favour of the state building houses and then picking winners to occupy them. The government should not be in the business of land speculation and development. It doesn’t matter which party is in power

            • bert says:

              But the central government has given the local Auckland council a directive so who is,

              “the bunch of self interested semi retired corrupt hacks masquerading as ministers then”?

              And how can it be a free market philosophy if you control it by legal means?
              It’s either free or controlled and thus why the free market philosophy just does not work. However if you were to control it by legal measures, somehow, all well and good but and this is a big but, what are your solutions for the record number of homeless right here and now?

              Today’s Herald describes a self made millionaire through property investors, explaining how people can live the dream through property investment. He talks of a $4000 deposit in 1991 as the driver for his success.Talk about comparing apples with oranges.

              http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11681336

      • Mike@nz says:

        Mine is not a “cold and uncaring attitude”.

        I am as concerned as you that certain people are missing out on the chance to own their own home. The way I see it is that demand is exceeding supply, simple as that. Councils need to free up land to build on, government needs to free up the regulation and consents process, and government needs to be more open minded about newer and better building materials and methods used overseas.

        You see a pattern forming here? I’m all for govt getting the hell out of the way and let’s get some houses built!

        • Sam Sam says:

          So the policies that saw New Zealand grow from 1 million to 4 million are no longer useful because?

          And now that New Zealand is supposedly the richest it’s ever been we can’t build 40k houses like the old days cause the stingy hold outs can’t be arsed building low cost housing because consents aren’t structure right?

          All your comments are centred around loopholes for investors and are coming across as any old excuse to drag out the housing crises.

          • Mike@nz says:

            Mr Sam, how many houses for the poor have you built, and do you rent any houses for less than you could get on the open market because you know that that is all the tenant can afford to pay?