Here’s a few ideas from the Guardian on Housing. The author argued that the Government has a key role in getting people into their own homes. She argues that the Government should look at housing as part of the country’s infrastructure.
But there is another way. In recent years, housing campaigners at Shelter have shifted their focus from broad notions of affordability to social housing: that is, housing operated on a not-for-profit basis by councils or housing associations and let at below-market rates. When I first clocked this shift, it puzzled me, because I understood social housing to be a small segment of the market, reserved only for those on the lowest incomes. How could this hold the key to making housing work better for everyone?
Yet all it takes is a history lesson to nudge the pieces into place. Look at the levels of housebuilding by councils and private developers in recent decades and one thing is clear: we have only ever built enough houses when the state has been a significant part of the equation. Private developers will never build enough; in an uncompetitive market, it’s not in their interests to do so. Safe, comfortable and secure homes are like healthcare, schools and the railways: it takes state action to ensure everyone can live in one. It feels ridiculous that the government invests more in building roads than it does in building homes.
And then she concludes:
But there is a multitude of ways in which social housing could help deliver a world where everyone can find a decent place to live where there is no risk of getting kicked out on a whim. This generation of young people will bear the worst long-term burden from the pandemic: why shouldn’t everyone aged between 18 and 28 get guaranteed five-year social housing tenancy, allowing them save more for a deposit if they so wish? And how about a modern-day “homes fit for heroes”: decent housing for people who risked their lives doing the kind of low-paid but essential jobs, from care work to stocking shelves, to keep society going in recent months? Far too many are forced to spend the bulk of their limited pay on substandard housing that is a lengthy commute from where they work.
It is much easier to make the case for something that can benefit a whole generation – even pretty affluent families worry about their children and grandchildren in relation to housing – and the people everyone knows, like the carer who looks after your parents or the teaching assistant who helps your child to read. But people also need to be helped to overcome their natural sense of fatalism that a problem that is talked about as a huge, unsolvable crisis can be cracked, and that it’s not some utopian fantasy to think it can.
The key message is that as a society we’ve chosen to do it before, and we can do it again. It might take some upfront government investment, but the amounts are not that scary, and publicly funded housing provides a long-term and low-risk stream of rental income for the state – it makes good financial sense. In fact, the only group who stand to lose are the private developers who have never, and will never, meet the country’s need for homes if it’s left to them.
The pandemic will not by itself conjure up a transformation in the way we as a society think about housing. But I think it means we may be ready to hear a different message.
Here is the document to complete to make a submission for the Christchurch City Council policy document which Paul Cottam spoke about two weeks ago: https://www.ccc.govt.nz/the-council/consultations-and-submissions/haveyoursay/show/345