Saturday, June 30, 2012

Housing---a basic need but often unreachable.

If you are hoping to find a house to rent at a reasonable price or perhaps enter the ownership model in Auckland (and other larger cities in New Zealand, then you better have a very large income. The fact is, that for both possibilities the goal posts are continually moving, making your wish merely a dream.
Perhaps you should consider one of the outer suburbs, but even then you face stiff competition. If you have a dog, then it is even harder to find a rental property willing to take you. We all know that finding a deposit and buying your own house is like chasing the sun over the horizon.
There are many reasons for this impossible situation and very few suggestions emanating form the Government or the opposition. I have read about steeply increasing rates bills causing sizable increases in the price for renting. That is just part of the problem.
One wonders at the effects of the Christchurch earthquakes; a plausible explanation if we factor in the increased pressure of those leaving the city (and not heading across to Australia) and moving to Auckland and other cities. I know that the school I am employed in has quite a few students enrolled from the southern city. If you extrapolate that across Auckland, it goes without saying that there will be increased pressure on the housing stock, both rental and for purchase.
The effect of this pressure is hugely increased rents and large numbers of people competing at auctions, sometimes having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over the Government Valuation of the said houses. Where does that leave prospective buyers? For some, it means joining the mad rush across the Tasman, where they believe they will find ‘greener grass. For some it works, but for many, they simply find that they have joined another queue for a better life that can be just as elusive. God help our situation, if they return in mass.
Is there a place to revisit the State’s involvement in the issue of ‘affordable housing---for rent, purchase or a combination of the two models? It is easy for those already happily ensconced in their homes to say that it is not the State’s role to provide for housing needs, and thereby increases the taxes those in that situation have to pay. There is no magic pill--- I accept that, but we do need to enter into a discussion about the State’s roles in the housing market.
 I have heard of models whereby the State takes a proportion of the ownership for a ‘State/private’ ownership home. We could explore this option and have a range of possibilities. For example; a range of State input from 20% right up to about 70%. This would achieve two goals.
Firstly, it moves people into the ownership model and there is much to be gained by tenants having a real stake in a property. Pride of ownership and a more stable community are important positive factors. Secondly, the model I suggests could well move a significant number of people from that impossible situation where they can never consider any form of ownership. The model if implemented could well increase the stability of some communities, where at the moment we see huge transiency in our schools. A more stable community is a plus for all--- families and schools.
Of course there is also the model of the State being more proactive in the traditional State house model. That there is a need is not the question. It is the affordability that will be thrown up as the main opposition to such a scheme. The alternative is that if we don’t follow one or both of the model I have suggested, then we are doomed to see an increase in social problems and yet more our people moving to Australia and beyond.
How would we finance such schemes? I know that for many, that is the main issue; one that is perceived as even more frightening than the social dislocation. After all, they are secure in their homes and in the misplaced belief that none of this affects them.
I am against using the ‘superannuation fund or Kiwi Saver to pay off Government debt, but I am not against using such funds to kick-start some of the suggestions I have outlined. As long as the State does not overexpose itself by going above a figure that they cannot safely retrieve through tenant/owners repayments, then what is the problem, other than a philosophical one?
We cannot sit by and do nothing--- as a nation, we must house our people or face the increasingly dangerous societal dislocation of unmet dreams and overflowing prisons. Take your pick!

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