So, Labour has announced emergency housing policy to deal with the thousands who cannot sleep with a proper roof over their heads. The policy, which is part of a larger plan to address housing being unveiled in the next few days would give 1,400 more people an emergency bed to sleep in. Across a calendar year this would enable 5,100 places a year to be made available for people needing emergency bedding. The policy has drawn praise, but people ask does it go far enough?
It depends on ones perspective. I think a better question is does it address the actual cause of housing becoming such a time bomb issue in New Zealand?
The answer to my question is “No”. It is certainly a good start and I keep in mind that there is further policy still to come which may address the question.
After considering the necessity of housing in the life of a person, the socio-economic effects of inadequate housing and the very real problems around affordable rents, I have my own proposed policy to announce:
- Restrict housing ownership to New Zealand permanent residents and citizens only – with a one house limit for permanent residents
- Examine the feasibility of offering small compact properties of 2 and 3 bedroom capacity with floor space less than 200m² – to be designed by New Zealand companies
- Investigate suitability of apartment complexes
- Cease the sale to private hands of existing state housing
- Make sure that all of the existing stock of state houses is fit for rental purposes
- Review and overhaul if necessary the minimum standards for state own housing
Labour has struggled to seize the initiative on housing, but is showing promise with the policy unveiling underway over the next few days. However, like National’s frenzy of activity it is ignoring the core problem because philosophically neither party wants to turn off the flow of non-New Zealanders into the housing market. Contrary to the notion that has often been floated about that reducing immigration is xenophobic and shows intolerance, it should be pointed out that other countries have restrictions on foreigners buying property that are considerably tougher than New Zealand and some of those countries are much bigger in geographical size, population and economy.
New Zealanders seem to like houses big and bigger, which anecdotal evidence from other countries suggests may now be becoming less fashionable as concerns about the environmental impact, affordability and lifestyle issues begin to take their toll. How far behind the curve New Zealand is when it comes to this is perhaps shown by the as yet considerable aversion to apartment living, which in parts of New Zealand such as Auckland may become simple necessity because of land constraints.
Finally state housing is exactly that. It is not private housing for sale. It is Government built and owned housing that has one purpose and one purpose only – to house those who are unable to afford rental properties. The Government should award New Zealand companies the contracts for designing, building and – if the private sector really must be involved – maintaining them, because New Zealand companies are more likely to have have a social conscience about the people living in the properties.