More evidence has just come out of the housing crisis under Labour. Two reports - both partially funded by The Centre for Housing Research - quantify the size and scale of the housing and rental issues facing Auckland. And if you think that my continued use of the term ‘crisis’ is an exaggeration, then note that the Herard now describe it as ‘a housing crisis of massive proportions’. The Centre for Housing Research reports says that housing unafforability ‘was likely to increase the gap between socioeconomic groups, and had implications for community stability and wealth accumulation’. In general, they say that ‘Home ownership is assuming a more polarised social character’ under Labour. [Read more below]
One report (by property consultants DTZ ) says that Renting is 'becoming the norm for many'. Even the well-off are faced with a lifetime of renting, locked out of homeownership by escalating house prices. Apparently, ‘even high-wage households earning $50,000 to $70,000 annually are suffering "housing stress", paying more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing costs’.
Another article in the Herald - Rent meters keep ticking during families' fruitless searches - details individuals ‘stuck in the rent trap’, and sites real estate figures showing that Auckland's average house price recently jumped by $60,000 in just one month (or almost $2000 a day). Of course the private market don’t have a lot of sympathy for those struggling to find housing. The Herald today talks to the Property Investors Federation vice-president Andrew King who puts the blame on the renters and tells potential homeowners that they just have to lower their housing horizons. He even goes as far as saying that people are failing to save because they consume too much – see: 'Don't buy coffee and cars if you want a house'
In line with my post last year on the Plummeting rate of homeownership, the DTZ report says that in Auckland, ownership has fallen 8% between 1991 and 2001 (73% to 65%) and is projected to decline a further 7% to 58% by 2016. Furthermore, in Auckland, during the 1996-2006 decade the number of households unable to afford to buy even the cheapest house had risen by 169%.
It might seem a bit rough to blame the Labour Government for the current housing crisis, but as a previous post has explained, the current situation is very much due to Labour’s continued adherence to the discredited ideological framework of neo-liberalism. This means that even in regard to this week’s news, Labour are not even talking of state housing expansion, but only that they want to encourage more private housing in poor areas – see: Runaway house costs put acid on Government This is low-cost option for the government so the state doesn’t have to spend money, whereby you force developers to build low-cost houses in new estates – which makes it look like the government is doing something. But in their continued blindness to market failure, Labour refuse to recognize that the private residential housing market has completely failed to provide for peoples’ housing needs.
Motu’s second housing report argues that ‘the Government's housing policy was focused on the demand side of private housing, via income supplementation’ when there is actually an obvious need for ‘government focus from the demand side - improving households' access to housing - to the supply side, where a shortage of affordable and secure accommodation for poorer households was a problem.’
The Greens don’t do much better than Labour, as they too are quickly moving away from any policies that might involve big spending by the state. Even on the relatively mild recommendation in the Motu report - of the freeing up of Auckland land for housing as an urgent and necessary start to solving the city's housing crisis - Green Party co-leader Russel Norman dismissed this. He says the answer is not to release more land, which would create urban sprawl. The attempt to veto this partial-solution reeks of dogmatic Green anti-progress ideology. While we all want bigger and better public transport systems, the Greens blindly turn this into a stick to try to stop other compatible solutions. The Greens’ conservatism on this – and other issues - is a demonstration of how limited contemporary party politics has become. It seems that no parliamentary parties are putting forward any vaguely leftwing or progressive solution to the problem. It is left to people outside the stale party system to advocate for more state housing. For example, not only do the reports want government to provide more housing, even the Salvation Army's director of social policy has called for swift government action, including more state housing to be built.