Our biggest city is going through its worst housing crisis since the opening of the first state house in 1937. The dire situation in Auckland is now extending to other urban areas like Tauranga, as was recently reported in media. People are homeless, sleeping on streets, in tents, in cars - and where they do have a roof over their heads, as many as 10-15 can be sharing a three-bedroom home. The working middle-class cannot afford to buy houses as they’re now worth more than 10 times the average annual salary of over $76,000. The people of our country are suffering.
So what has caused this? There are a number of contributing factors but the biggest and most important is supply. We now have the lowest amount of social housing per population since 1949. The seeds were sown in the 80s, when the capitalist left (Labour Party) turned its back on the working class, passing its own economic version (Rogernomics) of what the right-wing politicians call neo-liberalism. These reforms paved the way for the capitalist right-wing (National Party) government of the 90s to get stuck into selling off and restricting the supply of social housing. The party was caught up in its usual “user pays/must be privatised for profit ” money addict ideology.
When the capitalist left came back into power in the late 90s, they didn’t really do anything substantial about the erosion of social housing quality and stock. So when the capitalist right returned to power in 2008, the attacks on social housing continued. This has effected a socio-economic cleansing of parts of our city so that land can be freed up for wealthy private development - forcing poor people to move further out of the city.
Making the housing crisis worse is the fact workers’ wages have remained stagnant and have not increased at the same rate as those of the CEOs they answer to. They’ve also not kept up with inflation and the cost of living. Many people now can’t even afford a private rental. Even rental on a room-to-let boarding situation is over 50% of a worker’s minimum wage.
The capitalist left has tried to make racist attacks on Chinese immigrants saying Chinese foreign speculators have driven up the pricing of private housing. While foreign speculation is definitely a contributing factor, it’s certainly not the largest - and it’s not just Chinese overseas speculators. The majority are baby boomer (born 1946 - 1964) Kiwis who bought their homes for $30-$40,000 in the 70s and 80s and whose properties are now worth over $1m. Clearly they’re just trying to deflect attention from the true cause of this crisis, and that is lack of supply from successive NZ governments. For the past 30 years our political rulers have been trying to keep the supply of housing down to increase demand and therefore drive up pricing for their own personal economic capital gains.
Housing shouldn’t even be something that you buy and invest in to make capital gains for profit. If you must invest your money then invest it somewhere else like green technology. Everyone should have a right to a clean, warm, dry home. If you cannot afford to buy your own house privately through the bank then there should at least be government assisted schemes such as a “rent-to-buy” so that people can pay what they can afford. The NZ government has access to the cheapest money in their beloved fake “free market”. There is no reason not to.
As socialists, where social housing is pretty much in our moral code, we will need to work harder to gain public awareness to the capitalist causes of this continuing crisis. We will need to network with our comrades and other organisations to rally against this atrocity. Whether it eventuates to the beginnings of our hoped for revolution or not, we should be at least demanding from the NZ government 100,000 homes be built immediately, rent control, social housing and strict regulations on making sure that every home is safe, warm, secure and dry. No one should ever be homeless. It’s called showing dignity for your own species.