Like many Kiwis I spent part of this summer camping. A mate had a patch of dirt where I could pitch a tent and he let me use the old hut nearby to shelter when it rained six inches in three days. My sturdy tent held up well, but sick of the wet I bugged out in the end. I had a choice.
Young and mostly male, the New Lynn homeless are a visible part part of the bigger tragedy of high youth unemployment. If you are under 25 you are twice as likely to be out of a job. If you are young, brown and male, make that at least four times.
The misfortune of these young people is that they have no steady income to pay the rent. Let alone the four weeks bond, four weeks rent in advance and agent’s fee every single time they have to move. They have no leeway to catch up or pay off debt. No way to keep up with, let alone get ahead of Auckland’s crazy property market.
Their story happens to be in my area, but most Auckland and urban MPs are facing the same sad issues.
This is a Government failure. The solutions to the housing crisis are pretty obvious. Build more affordable houses, fast. Give renters decent rights and make landlords do what is necessary to have safe, healthy rental accommodation. Restore Housing NZ to be a community provider not a profit-raker.
Don’t outsource the problem offshore. Manage offshore speculation in our homes.
This Government’s so-called economic growth is not delivering for everyone. It is relying too much on unrestrained offshore money flows to keep the sagging boat afloat.
The truth is there are just not enough jobs, and even fewer for those in our community who lack the skills increasingly needed in a tech-driven economy. It is a tragic failure of this Government to have cancelled adult and community education. And it is Labour, not National, who is driving new ideas on the future of work.
Instead, National just throws people off welfare – driving them to desperation – and the bush in my electorate. Punishing those on the bottom might work for redneck focus groups, but it does not solve the job or housing crises. Sowing the seeds of a social underbelly that in the end indicts and damages us all. No wonder National’s spin doctors are in overdrive and ministers have belatedly sent Work and Income in to “see what can be done”.
Meanwhile the people of New Lynn have been picking up where the Government has failed and delivered food parcels and blankets and tents.
I know the people in my electorate are pretty special people. But I also know the are representative of most of New Zealand: they have a strong sense of community; they value work; they want their kids to get ahead; and they also want their neighbours to be OK too.
In other words – they understand much better than this Government that having the filthy rich living cheek by jowl with abject poverty is not sustainable – for anyone.
We all benefit from a society where all can do well, where there is a safety net when misfortune strikes and a hand up to get back on your feet.
Just ask the homeless bushies of New Lynn. It is past time for a change.