A country where houses are unaffordable, renters are struggling and there is widespread homelessness is not a situation any government should tolerate.
This is according to a recent paper from the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland, which says New Zealand needs a complete paradigm shift to “reimagine” what a fair housing system might look like.
‘Transformative Housing Policy for Aotearoa New Zealand’, written by Dr Jenny McArthur (University College London), Max Harris, author of The New Zealand Project, Dr Jacqueline Paul (Unitec), Scott Figenshow (Community Housing Aotearoa) and University of Auckland sociology PhD candidate Jordan King, recommends a bold shift from housing “as a form of commodified intergenerational wealth creation to a form of wellbeing creation”.
“The housing crisis is neither inevitable or escapable,” says Jordan King, “and allowing it to continue unabated will do lasting damage to health, exacerbate inequality and levels of debt and shatter the hopes of a generation.”
The paper says the current situation can be attributed to a number of key factors: 19th century colonisers’ land grabbing that left only five percent of Māori land remaining under Māori custodianship; the imposition of Pākeha ideas about land and resource ownership on Māori; a major shift away from the state taking responsibility for providing housing (under both Labour and National governments from 1984-1999); the radical deregulation of the financial and banking sectors in the 1990s, and the centrality of real estate to the New Zealand economy.
The “deep-seated deference” to the market and the failure of multiple governments to tax wealth have compounded these issues.
The paper’s solutions include establishing a Ministry of Public Works, a Green Investment Bank, a state lending agency, stronger support for Tino Rangatiratanga over housing policy, fair taxation and expanding state and community housing.
Tackling homelessness, particularly targeting youth, and looking at ways to redress the power imbalance between landlords and renters complete the recommendations.
Mr King says many of these ideas are already working effectively in other parts of the world.
“These are practical policies that have emerged out of the tireless advocacy of housing campaigners in New Zealand, and ideas that have proven to be effective elsewhere.”
All policies broadly advocate for transferring power away from banks, unelected officials and the market with their focus on intergenerational wealth creation for the few, to a more collective approach which puts Māori at its centre.
“A properly coordinated housing system – integrated with the rest of the country’s public policy – will be embedded in tikanga, prioritise kāinga and whanau and focus on ‘decolonising’ existing housing policies,” he says.
Taken together, the paper’s authors believe this new approach will contribute to a markedly more democratic and innovative housing policy that won’t involve ‘tinkering around the edges’ of the existing system.
“We argue that there is no excuse for political parties to be timid or inactive any longer; the challenges are too great to be neglected, and a bold new approach is needed for the greater wellbeing of us all.”