Alan Johnson, an analyst who worked for the Salvation Army for years, has produced his latest analysis on our housing market. For those of us committed to an ethical response to housing needs, and for all New Zealanders to be properly housed emerging from Covid 19, is a great opportunity to remedy the mistakes of the past.
Alan summarises his thoughts at the end of this document https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2020/04/18/must-read-what-is-to-become-of-our-housing-post-covid-19/
It would be a shame however if this rescue was driven by a crisis narrative which shifts the focus from the homeless guy in the street or the family in a motel unit to developers going broke and CBD apartment prices plummeting. Most likely there is actually limited mileage in using house building as an economic lever in part because it appears that the biggest job losses will be in the service sector – especially hospitality, and because such investment may feed into monopoly profits for building materials manufacturers and for land bankers.
A more measured approach to a new housing strategy might include measures across a number of parts of the housing policy kitset including.
- The relaxation of building regulations to make it easier for people to build smaller units or so-called tiny homes for themselves and whanau.
- Strengthening of tenancy laws in favour of tenants including the criminalisation of exploitative landlord practices like bond theft and the renting of the worst of sub-standard accommodation.
- Development of an institutional rental housing option which no longer relies on mom and pop landlords farming capital gains but on purpose built rental housing with sound and efficient institutional frameworks.
- Capital support for the NGO not-for-profit housing sector to begin the build at scale and in particular to develop below market secure tenure rental housing to supplement social housing.
The next few months will probably determine the nature of any recovery driven housing package. As this is designed and rolled out it is important that we learn from the past and don’t simple recreate the system we already have. If the muscle of the state is to be used to rebuild the economy, let us hope that what we end up with is fairer and less unequal. Our choices around housing policy are critical to such a transformation.
The answer is not to wait for “the market” to sort out housing needs. Nor is it for the state to run everything through Kainga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand). The Community Housing Sector has played a valuable place with housing in this country. Some members of the sector were providing affordable housing before the Government. So, when we consider the housing continuum, it is essential that all sectors work together to ensure that we use this great opportunity to get housing right.
Here’s the housing continuum. I apologise about the reference to HNZC. This graphic demonstrates the elements of the market from people on the streets, to home ownership in the open market. We’re all in this, and the Government must play its role in funding the Community Housing Sector better than it has in the past few years: