You might be a policeman. Perhaps you are a teacher at the local primary school. Or what about a nurse working at the hospital. The place you call home is in Mount Eden and the rent for it per week swallows two thirds of your weekly income. What is left is chewed up by food, transport and common expenses. Going out even once a month is expensive. Your partner is no better off and for want of starting a family you are starting to realize that you cannot make ends meet in Auckland, despite loving the city climate, culture and attractions.
Auckland businessman and Chair of Vector and a senior partner in KordaMentha, Michael Stiassny believes Auckland is becoming unsustainably expensive for the middle class worker. He is right. A modest house with three bedrooms should not cost $1,000,000. Nor should rent be so high that particular socio-economic classes are priced out of the city, for without them essential services necessary for the maintenance of life in a modern city would not be provided.
I cannot see a City Councillor, a multi-national company C.E. or Minister of the Crown cleaning hospital corridors or teaching pre schoolers. I cannot see them patrolling the streets at stupid hours of the night or day running the risk of running into someone high on methamphetamine making an arse of himself, who may turn on them with a knife. But people have to do these jobs. And in order for people to do those jobs they must be able to live somewhere they feel safe, be able to afford the basics of life.
In other countries with similar problems, populist politics is on the march because of it. In Australia, the United States, England and elsewhere parties claiming to be working for the common person are gaining in the polls because of disenfranchisement among the voting population with the mainstream parties. The manifestations vary considerably – in the United States, Donald Trump might be standing for President as the Republican nominee, but his rejection of establishment politics has caught the imagination of millions of Americans.
In New Zealand, populism has not caught on in the way it has in the United States. However, that is most certainly not to say it does not exist. The rise of New Zealand First, under Winston Peters in the polls, is a result of growing angst at the establishment parties of National and Labour. The unaffordable nature of buying/renting in Auckland, the costly rental market in other major urban areas, and the problems with accommodation in post-earthquake Christchurch have combined to make housing a potential election winner for the right party.
The housing market might be overheated beyond Auckland, but it is there that voters will make their feelings most loudly known on election night 2017. A failure to fix Auckland’s market might well decide the election.