Students vulnerable to housing crisis

Over the next few weeks tens of thousands of students will be going back to University, to Wananga’s, to Polytechnic’s to begin another year of study. They will be looking for flats, apartments, student halls and places where they can pay board to stay. Most will have no trouble finding a flat. But what about those who cannot compete, yet face a stark choice of either abandoning their study or studying at an entirely different institution?

Everyone has a right to housing under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and under the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

The theory is that the market is driven by demand, and the more that is paid, theoretically the higher the quality of the accommodation should be. The reality is somewhat different from the theory. The theory would be the case if were not for land lords – most of whom are quite fair and responsible people – asking for exorbitant rents whilst not necessarily using the money to maintain the property. The rents will be a challenge for many needing jobs to pay their way, or having to dig into hard earned financial reserves.

It should also be said that the market is not a silver bullet solution to everything, including and especially housing. We have seen in Auckland the damaging effects that a market gone mad is having on people and economic sectors – teachers cannot afford to work in Auckland because living costs are made too expensive by rent, causing principals in turn to worry about whether or not they will have enough qualified staff to deliver the curriculum.

Students are our future. Without trained teachers, doctors, police officers, and so forth the entire economy and way of life tips over. But if our students cannot afford inhabitable accommodation with electricity, running water and working sewerage, then it is difficult to expect them to continue studying, difficult for them to work to earn money to pay for study.

The Government should be concerned. It is election year, and National wishes to have a fourth term in office, yet it denies that the housing sector is in crisis. It denies that there is a teacher shortage in Auckland because of the crisis and it also insists that bringing a large number of migrants in to New Zealand, many of whom have poor English is a working solution. An effect of this influx is to add unnecessary demand to a limited housing stock.

An eight year old Government that has not made tangible improvements to the housing market now is not likely to do so in the foreseeable future. Housing will be an election issue in 2017.


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