The government’s continued loyalty to the neoliberal orthodoxy prevents it from realistically tackling the housing crisis.
THE GOVERNMENT'S HASTILY compiled report on the state of New Zealand's housing market doesn't tell us anything we didn't know before. It might of been good PR for the Minister of Housing, Phil Twyford, to present himself as a minister who will really tackle the crisis head on, but we're still no closer to any real solutions.
This crisis has been building. In 2007 Matt McCarten attacked the Helen Clark-led Labour Government, commenting that "It is outrageous that a supposedly pro-worker government manages an economic policy that tolerates a situation where workers on the average wage in Auckland have to pay 90 percent of their take-home pay on a medium house mortgage,". He said that Labour was fiddling while Rome burned.
In 2018 Rome has well and truly burned to the ground. There are still too few new homes, still usually costing too much, still increasing numbers of homeless, still a whole swathe of the community struggling with ever-increasing rents while exploitative landlords go laughing all the way to the bank. This human disaster is damaging lives, breaking up families, rocketing up housing-related health problems, blighting people's futures. In a New Zealand that Austin Mitchell once referred to as the " half gallon quarter acre paradise', people are now resigned to the fact that they will never own a home of any description. These days ordinary folk are not only 'working for the man', but also 'working for the landlord'.
In response to the report there have been the usual declarations of concern and that 'we' must do something about it. The problem is that what is being done about it is clearly inadequate. The thrust of the government plan is to build 100,000 houses within the next decade. But it has already been told by Treasury that New Zealand is already 60,000 houses short with 35,000 needed in Auckland alone.
it is the sheer scale of the crisis that may well of provoked one of the authors of the report, economist Shamubeel Eaqub, to declare that 100,000 houses is nowhere good enough and that we need 500,000 new homes. He pointedly referred to the government's draconian 'fiscal responsibility rules' which he said were an economic straitjacket on the government developing anything close to a realistic and comprehensive response to the crisis.
Given the ideological nature of this government and its continued loyalty to the economic orthodoxy, it is unlikely that it will do the right thing and implement a large scale state house building and acquisition programme. But anything less will simply be tinkering around the edges.
If it wanted, for, example, the government could solve the homeless crisis almost immediately - simply by taking a leaf out of U.K. Labour's book. In January leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that a Labour Government would immediately buy 8,000 homes in order to bring an end to 'rough sleeping'. The 8,000 homes represents a doubling of the commitment it made in its 2017 manifesto.
There is nothing but the lack of political will to prevent the Labour-New Zealand First coalition from introducing a similar policy here.