Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This election must be about 'housing.

The election in September, 2014 must be about housing, health and education. Sure there are other issues and one in particular that is not worth giving much credence; that is the part the Mana and their bedfellow, the Internet Party will play. For the moment, forget about that wasted space on the political spectrum because the above issues affect the lives of a great many more New Zealanders.
Take housing: If you live in Auckland, Christchurch and parts of Wellington, the chance of buying your first home is becoming a pipe dream; for those seeking to purchase in the ‘queen city,’ even more so. As of April, 2014 the cost of an average house is just under NZ$700,000. If one settled for less desirable areas (and people are finally getting the message that this is what they need to do in order to get onto the property ladder) $400,000 doesn’t buy much.
If you are able to raise the mortgage, you face massive repayment, leaving very little to enjoy the fruits of your labour. This situation must be spawning a whole new class in New Zealand; that of the disenchanted and hopeless. Knowing that you cannot achieve what most of us have taken as a ‘birth right,’ in NZ over the years, must be putting a pressure on society that will have major ramifications further down the track. The frustration levels will build as the goal post to home ownership gradually become a distant haze on the horizon.
What will young people do, if they cannot realize their dreams? Do they give up and gradually transform Aucklander into a ‘renting’ city or do we come up with a solution n that involves long term leasing as they do I n countries like Switzerland? That would require a massive mind change on the part of Kiwis. Do we look at Auckland differently and finally come to the conclusion that perhaps allowing this city to keep growing at the expense of the ‘regions,’ is not a desirable attribute. How do we channel resources and people back into the regions?
Politicians in the past have minced words around the issue but never succeeded in delivering meaningful policy. The National Party and its more ‘hands off’ policies is hardly going to alter its base policies; ones that its supporters actually benefit from the impossible housing situation in Auckland. The Labour Party in turn, has so far only played around with the idea, knowing that leaning too hard on those who have gained from past policies, will turn on them, taking voters who normally have a ‘spot for the Labour Party, but who would also like to be part of the ‘haves’ in society. It is this dream, the one where by homeownership is equated with ‘freedom of choice’ that Labour voters get a little nixed up, and thus nothing ever changes.
It is going to take a brave government, who would tackle this ‘Auckland problem and I doubt that nay party at the present has policies that are anything more than ‘platitudes. It has been mooted that  capital gains tax, if implemented, ‘could make a difference,’ and various incentives by local council in the regions, combined with Government policies could play their part too,  but I can see nothing on the horizon re this 2014 election that leans far in this direction.
New Zealand is at a cross road. We cannot let the lack of access to affordable housing stay on the back-burner.’ It is going to increasingly be part of contribution to a New Zealand that most of us want no part of: namely, an unfair and divided society. We need our politicians to make some hard calls and not let factional divisions rule; usually those who have and have always had the power in New Zealand. Attacking immigrants is not the answer, but fine-tuning who can own and buy New Zealand real estate, is not such a radical move; it exists in many other countries around the world, but it is not the magic bullet, needed to inspire the dream that New Zealanders are losing sight of.
So let this year be one in which the hard question are asked about what type of society do we wish for. Then, bring about a ‘stage’ upon which it can function. Do our politicians have it in them to have this important debate?