I’ve always found the Common Good to be an appealing concept. Every media outlet is honing in on Housing, so I thought I’d return to this topic as well. This week I have a few ideas/challenges which aren’t being talked about, but which could change the conversation on housing.
Here is a quote from an article in the Guardian this week about the toxicity of politics in USA. The theme in the article also applies to housing:
And yet the divides remain. How can these embittered certainties be eased and eventually bridged? Changing people’s minds may seem to be the answer, but changing a mind is a very long-term process. Opening one’s own mind is more important. And this needs to apply on all sides. Denunciation, lecturing, labelling, and obsessing over language all make things worse, not better.
The key is to prioritise listening and then talking to others. Michael Sandel’s recent book The Tyranny of Merit argues that humility must be central to the reconstruction of the notion of the common good, without which no “we” society can prosper. People don’t need to be humiliated or denied a voice by being told they are bad, stupid, bigoted or unsuccessful. The aim should be to find things we can all agree about, perhaps including such things as fairness, patriotism, helping one another and trying to agree about facts.
Respect for the truth is indispensable. (Politicians) need the help of thousands of local citizens if so, meeting at local level to rebuild confidence in the common good.
The first part of my writing this week is an open letter I have sent to Jacinda Ardern:
Kia ora Jacinda
What is stopping you adopting the challenge of the need for fairness, patriotism, and the desire for us all to help each other on the way we approach housing solutions?
Your Government is in the hot seat regarding the crisis we have in housing. While this is not completely of your making, housing is an issue which affects the whole population and at the moment the system is not working for all. A different style of leadership is needed -a style which has not been adopted so far. The team of 5 million would respond if a bipartisan approach was taken to housing, just as you did over the pandemic. This week Matthew Hooton, not noted for his commitment to intervention, wrote in the New Zealand Herald:
“Beyond electoral politics, the two-decade-old housing crisis, during which prices have more than quadrupled, is a Les Misérables-level threat to social cohesion.”
What is needed now is a contemporary variation to the approach of the 1950’s and 1960’s toward housing. It’s appropriate now, but your Government can’t do it on its own.
I watched as Parliament commenced for the first time since the election. You have achieved an international reputation for a different type of politics. Despite this when Judith Collins challenged you this week you responded:
I will forever find it galling to be lectured by the Leader of the Opposition who left us a housing crisis, denied it was a housing crisis, and, I have to say, whose major response to that housing crisis – their major response to the housing crisis – was to sell state houses, to cut the public housing waiting list, and on the one thing that apparently would make all the difference, planning, they did absolutely nothing – nothing.”
The comment that the National Party did virtually nothing was accurate. Labour also hasn’t achieved everything you wanted, but you are on the journey. Labour has created a new Government Department called Ministry of Housing and Urban Design. You have put Kainga Ora on steroids and have built more state houses than have been built for decades. However, Labour needs to be really careful that the Party doesn’t fall into a different dogma-driven hole, just as the National Party did for so long. What is needed is openness to new thinking and new ways to address our country’s challenge of housing.
That will need new forms of collaboration between sectors.
What I want to see you do is to use some of your considerable political capital and engage all of Parliament and the political parties in establishing a Housing Accord. This should be robust enough that it can survive even when the Government changes. You already have the model with the Zero Carbon Act. A cross party agreement would give certainty to future generations of house builders, home owners and occupiers. There are many players in the housing system. I am confident that they would all welcome performing their part to identify new solutions for our shared housing issues.
Jacinda you have the ability to rise above the sort of response you gave this week. You are better than this. We don’t need politicians to be engaging in a tribal manner about housing. We want to see you restore people’s faith in Parliament as an institution. We want to see you taking this matter so that it is above internecine warfare. We want you to lead the team of 5 million to work together on the solution, just as you have on the pandemic.
Garry Moore CNZM, FCA
Former Mayor of Christchurch