Reading about the sale of housing to former high flyer, Mark Hotchin, I was drawn to wonder if there should be a limit on the number of properties a wealthy New Zealander can own. The flash in the pan only lasted a couple of seconds, but in doing so it raised a perhaps more important question about how much further the property market can continue to heat up before economic forces make it implode on itself without Government intervention.
This brings me nicely to an issue that I think will make or break the 2017 general election. New Zealanders are tired of being priced out of their own housing market. They are tired of going for broke just trying to pay rent and not being able to afford anything else, much less a decent quality of life.
It is going to be an election issue because housing rents are so high in Auckland that essential workers such as teachers are not able to live there without basically being broke. It is going to be an election issue because without those essential workers living there, the quality of the contribution those sectors make to New Zealand’s economy and overall well being is brought into question.
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.
It is not that there are not alternatives to the trend for bigger houses. There are companies in New Zealand that design compact housing with minimal floor space. These properties might not suit a couple, and certainly not a young family, but individuals with a strong environmental conscience or simply no need for a larger property could be taken.
Finally state housing is exactly that. It is not private housing for sale. Contrary to what National, who are proposing the sale of hundreds of state houses, think, these properties should remain in New Zealand hands. 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.
How political parties acknowledge these issues is going to determine who wins the 2017 election in New Zealand.