The Associate Minister of Housing, Marama Davidson, appeared on Newshub Nation on Saturday with little to offer in the way of solutions to the problem of homelessness and the housing crisis in general.

BURIED IN TV3's Saturday morning schedule is Newshub Nation. On Saturday it invited the Associate Minister of Housing (with  special responsibility for homelessness) into the studio to respond to a news item on the plight of homeless young people.

There are some 41,000 homeless people in New Zealand presently, and approximately half of them are under the age of twenty-five. What was Marama Davidson doing about it? Did she have any solutions?

The news item focused on the plight of young people being housed in clearly inappropriate motel accommodation. One young woman living in a motel - and who didn't want to be identified - said that she was so scared that she pushed furniture up against her door to prevent people getting in. 'Hannah' is just eighteen.

Davidson wasn't foolish enough to try to downplay the seriousness of Hannah's story and actually observed that there was 'far too many young people' in a similar situation and that she 'wasn't satisfied  about it.'

'There's an absolute need to establish a targeted plan for homeless young people', she said.

So where is it? That plan being is being 'worked on' by the Government, according to Davidson. But she was unable to provide any concrete details about what such a plan might entail nor could she tell us when such a plan would pop out of the bureaucracy other than we would 'likely' see it by 'the end of the year'.

This is hardly an urgent and critical response to a crisis that didn't just arrive overnight. Indeed Marama Davidson was campaigning on issues of poverty and housing as a Green Party election candidate in South Auckland in 2017 and informing Spin Off that she didn't mind being described as a 'radical'. Now, in 2021, she's sitting in a television studio, on a fat six figure ministerial salary and media makeover firmly in place, justifying her position on the ground that she's 'only' been a Minister for ten months.  

Of course, realistically, any proposed plan is unlikely to be implemented before the next election and is of no help to young people like Hannah right now. Davidson's response was that the Government was looking at purchasing further motels. While she suggested that this was only a temporary solution to deal with an immediate problem the very fact that neither National and Labour have any real solutions to the housing crisis means that this is likely to become 'the new normal', as interviewer Simon Shepherd suggested. Just like food banks - another symptom of a failed neoliberal economy.

The problem is that the Green Party has bought into market arguments that the housing crisis is simply the problem of supply and demand. If we build enough houses, 'affordability'  will trickle down to those most in need. We know that this is not true. A plan based around market-based 'affordable' housing has not even come close to meeting current needs. And the few 'affordable' homes that have been built and sold at something like half a million dollars and more, are simply out of reach of low income families and individuals.

A crisis of this magnitude cannot be solved, as Marama Davidson seems to assume, by correcting and regulating the market while tacking on a few schemes to 'mop up' the casualties. But, unfortunately, Davidson has proved she is no radical and she co-leads a party that remains loyal to a Labour Government that is loyal to market interests and concerns. 

But housing justice requires deeper change. Questions need to be raised about collective ownership, decommodified land and housing under democratic control. But since Labour was elected in 2017, the Green MP's have had little to say. Bound by the rules of its 'cooperation agreement', the Green's  have maintained a cosy relationship with Labour which has rendered them almost irrelevant. It's little wonder that the ACT Party, much more aggressive and much more visible, has outflanked the Green's.

When Labour came to power there were approximately 65,000 state houses and a public housing waiting list of 5000. Five years later, the Government has built less than a thousand new homes while the waiting list has escalated to over 24,000.

The Labour Government should have initiated a public housing program to build thousands of new houses. But not wanting to upset its property-owning voters who might not appreciate their properties decreasing in value as the result of an expanding state housing sector, the Government has chosen to maintain tight controls over spending in order 'to keep the debt level  down'. Marama Davidson has bought into this nonsense as well. On Newshub Nation she said all Minister's had to work within spending constraints. Hopeless.


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