One of NZs best documentary makers, Bryan Bruce, has hit another incredibly doco out of the park with last nights crisis in housing special on TV3. Previously his work on child poverty and how NZs neoliberalism has damaged us have been high points in his career, he adds another one with this work on the housing market.
One of the things we don’t really have as part of the debate right now, thanks to 30 years of neoliberal culture and a mainstream media in constant denial of our past, is a history lesson on how the boomers got their houses and the values that underpinned the desire to house everyone.
Remember the housing guarantee? All boomers had to do was get a 5% deposit and the Government loaned them the rest at 3% for 40 years.
Remember that when a boomer starts wailing on about how tough it was in their day.
The reason why this was a priority was because housing citizens was a priority for all, not just some.
Isn’t it quaint comparing that to the mutated horror our housing has become now? Believing that home ownership was crucial for a stable democracy and ensured quality of life seems light years ahead of where we are now.
Bruce paints a bleak picture of how neoliberalism has robbed us of an egalitarianism that was crucial for fairness.
Example after example after example of how our market driven economy has failed us are shown in painful detail. The madness of the neoliberal experiment from the 1980s is laid bare with the ease of the large banks entering our market and selling us their limitless money supply to capture the mortgage market away from the State.
This created the ‘asset class’.
Bruce points out it’s not just the boomers, he also points out that there is a serious problem with demand.
Treasury looked at the impact of immigration on house prices and found that for every 1% rise in immigration there was a 10% rise in house prices. The madness that we don’t even know how many foreign speculators are actually buying and selling our homes is explored as Bruce plays real estate adverts that are trying to sell to China.
The utter bullshit of the Government’s supposed obligations to count how many foreign speculators are in NZ with the Property Transfers and Tax residency report is shown up for the loophole joke it actually is because the incorporated company allows foreign share holders. What does that mean? It means the claim by National that only 4% of our market was being bought by foreign speculators is completely false and the number is to be found in the 60% that are hidden behind trust structures.
How Auckland became the fourth most unaffordable city in the world should shame and terrify us. National says it’s proof we are ‘succeeding’, and that it’s not the obvious conclusion of a 30 year neoliberal experiment gone bad.
Bruce looks at the impact of capital flight from China with a trillion leaving them last year to be reinvested into the rest of the Western world.
In NZ, ANY attempt to blame Chinese foreign nationals for buying up NZ property is screamed at by the cosmopolitan Twitterati as XENOPHOBIC RACSIM which is funny when you consider the opening sequence of Bryan walking around cars with families all living in them were brown.
Bruce looks at why Governments in the West have hidden the level of Chinese investment and the reasons are political and economic. If Western Governments were actually upfront with their domestic voter base about how much land China is buying, there would be extreme political backlash.
As we slowly become the Tibet of the South Pacific, the reality is that domestic NZers can not compete with 200 million middle class Chinese trying to buy into our property market. Globalisation might have given you that consumer toy cheaply, but it’s also devalued our quality of life as the domestic market is forced to compete with middle classes from other countries that are hundreds of times our entire nations population.
The wilful blindness by the Government to deny the influence of China in our market is highlighted again and again by Bruce as local public servants tell him any attempt to track this and measure it is ignored.
We can control the influx of capital coming into NZ, but we have a Government who needs that inflow to keep the false growth rates up. Bryan explores this political problem cleanly, he points out that if you don’t own a house, you want change, but if you do own a house you want things to continue as they are.
That is where I think the debate really is, a generational one between those who had their lives subsidised from cradle to grave (the boomers) and everyone else who had to live with the free market user pays cruelty of never ending debt slavery (Gen Xers & Millennials). This has complex political dimensions because boomers vote and Gen Xers and Millennials don’t.
Bruce lists the things we don’t do that could be insulating the domestic population from this insane capital inflows from foreign countries:
No stamp duty
No foreign buyers tax
No inheritance tax
Little capital gains tax
He then lists how other countries have managed to give domestic populations a chance to buy their own homes. It’s embarrassing how many good options there are and how few of them we are investigating.
Shares in collective home ownership.
Long term leasing.
Tenant protection agencies.
Security of tenure.
Bruce confronts us with the reality of how damaged our current situation is. He demands that the Government stop capitulating to the market because the market is only there to generate profit not social good and that if we want a serious debate about home ownership we have to collect good data.
Bryan Bruce has done more fourth estate journalism in one documentary than the entire mainstream media have managed all year on housing. In a country where the sleepy hobbits don’t want to be woken from their slumber with economic ideologies when the Bloc is on, we have allowed a train wreck neoliberal experiment to benefit the few while crucifying the many.
What is most frightening about this documentary is that many NZers would have no idea of the economic background that has led to this failure. We so rarely have decent documentaries on mainstream platforms, instead we have property speculating porn game shows that feed this frenzy.
Bryan has done NZers a great public broadcasting service with this documentary, every NZer should watch it.