An update on the number of children living in motels by RNZ’s Checkpoint programme should come as no surprise. The programme found an increase in 480 children in the three months from December 2020 to 31 March this year. Things are getting worse in housing for low-income New Zealanders.
Labour has produced numerous “feel-good”, “look busy” programmes for small numbers of middle-class renters but for those on the lowest incomes – who pay the highest proportion of their incomes in tax – there are no plans to build the huge number of state houses so desperately needed.
Evidence given to the Waitangi Tribunal (WAI 2750) two weeks ago by Kainga Ora CEO Andrew McKenzie spells it out. He says over the next four years the organisation will provide a net increase of only 8,200 state houses. (They will build more but are demolishing one for every two they build)
Since Labour was elected in 2017 the number on the state house waiting list has increased from just 5,000 to over 23,000 so the net number of state houses being built will not even keep up with the yearly increases in demand, let along eat into the 23,000 backlog.
Andrew McKenzie also explained that after that 2017 election, Kainga Ora recommended an increase in state house building from 1600 per year to 2,000 per year but Labour did not accept the recommendation. Yes, you read that correctly – Labour decided to simply continue building state houses at the same rate as the previous National government.
In fact over the last four years of Labour in government, the total number of state houses for rent has remained almost static.
Looking ahead Andrew McKenzie detailed Kainga Ora’s long-term building plan for state houses which is based on maintaining the same proportion of state houses as a share of the total number of houses in New Zealand – 3.7%. (The government has no plans to increase that despite this figure being over 5% in earlier decades)
This Kainga Ora long-term plan is to add just 23,000 additional places over 30 years.
This entire number is needed NOW – not in 30 years’ time.
The government will point to the budget’s $280 million for Maori housing initiatives over four years but this will only build around 250 new homes per year when Maori families make up half the waiting list for state homes.
Similarly with other initiatives with groups such as the Salvation Army and the Methodist Mission. These are “niche” providers who will do a great job but who have no hope of making a significant dent in the 23,000 state house waiting list.
The situation gets worse when one considers that Kainga Ora’s building programme for state houses is funded, in significant part, by the mass privatisation of crown land. Kainga Ora is demolishing state houses and selling the best land (nice sea views for example) to private property developers for high-cost housing. Meanwhile Kainga Ora jams three state houses onto the site of an older single state house. NONE of this land should be privatised – it should be used to build the homes our low-income families so desperately need.
Labour will not do anything about this crisis because it believes it can take for granted the votes of low-income New Zealanders. Labour’s housing focus for these past four years has instead been on trying to ease the housing pain of the children of middle-class baby boomers.
Labour will need a serious shove in the right direction to be right by low-income tenants and families and it’s good to know organisations around New Zealand are joining in an initiative to take this on.