PSA Members speak out on housing crisis


Safe, secure and affordable housing continues to surface as a top priority for New Zealanders ahead of September’s General Election.

Housing crisis 2

This edition, PSA members share their stories about striving for home ownership and what it’s really like living in Auckland.

Is home ownership out of reach?

It’s been 18 months since PSA member Chantelle Smith and her partner started going to open homes. They’ve put in a few offers but had no luck in Wellington. The pair pull in a “pretty decent” income, Chantelle says, having saved; “what I thought was a decent deposit”, but it’s not enough.

Low-paid workers and their families have rented for generations but now that middle-class earners are struggling to get on the property ladder, politicians are starting to pay attention.

Increased competition in the housing market makes it easier for landlords to justify rent increases and skimp on property maintenance, meaning that saving up for that first home is increasingly out of reach for New Zealand’s lowest paid workers.

Chantelle says she’s lucky to have been able to stay in the same rental for three years with good landlords while looking to buy, because the competition is tough.

“We’ve been finding that places which are advertised as being within our price range are selling way over the advertised price. It scares me that there are properties that have an RV of $350,000 and are selling for over $550,000.

Chantelle says people often tell her not to be so picky, but says her expectations are pretty reasonable.

“We’ve already cut back our list of necessities to the bare basics and we still can’t find anything. We don’t think we should we have to change our lifestyle – and potentially have our health suffer – just to have a house of our own.”

Chantelle says when she first started looking for a house, it was obvious that many of the other prospective buyers were looking for investment properties. Today, the competition is still tough, but there are more parents putting in offers to support their children into their first home.

That’s a good thing if you have parents to support you, but with prices soaring, Chantelle says even with assistance it’s difficult to justify the investment.

“Nobody wants to saddle themselves or their parents with a crazy amount of debt. Unless something changes, people like us will be locked out of the housing market for life,” Chantelle Smith says.

Getting a grip – The reality of Auckland’s housing crisis

The PSA believes that everyone has the right to warm, dry, secure and affordable housing, no matter what you earn or do for a living.

So, we decided to ask our members directly about their experiences of Auckland’s housing crisis to inform a detailed submission to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s Taskforce on Housing.

Our members responded in droves to this survey, sharing their lived experiences of Auckland’s overheated housing market.

The overwhelming response from our members has demonstrated that housing is a major policy priority in 2017. Within two hours of sending out the survey, we had received more than 1500 responses and, in total, 2500 people shared their stories.

More than half of members responding said the housing crisis had hurt their quality of life, nearly half admit that they live in unaffordable housing. More than half were seriously considering packing up and leaving Auckland altogether.

Among the anonymous responses exploitative landlords, overcrowding and concerns about disrupting kids schooling were common themes.

“I rent and every time we have to move I struggle to keep my kids in their school,”

“I’m leaving Auckland. Too depressing to just exist and go nowhere,”

“I am surviving in Auckland but not what you’d call living,”

“Half my income goes on rent.”

Taking your views to the top

Members’ stories were not only a temperature test, but an integral part of the PSA’s submission to the Mayoral Taskforce on Auckland Housing Supply, which also included expert advice from our members in local government.

Our members told us that decision makers need to think creatively, radically and bravely about the housing crisis.

In the submission, the PSA outlined its view that access to affordable, safe, secure and habitable housing is a basic human right and a core responsibility of government.

The PSA’s full submission is available on our website. From here, we will be reaching out to members throughout the country to talk about housing in their areas.

Extracts of responses to the PSA Auckland housing survey (anonymised)

Lack of choices

“I live in a 1.5 bedroom rental. I pay $350 weekly. It is old, it needs maintenance done: bathroom floor is rotting away and the deck is rotting away, the skirting around the house are falling off, the kitchen is the kitchen from hell. However, I am afraid to ask the landlord for getting this maintenance done because I fear they will put up the rent.”

"I cannot afford to pay more. I am a professional, have worked in the public service for most of that time. I had two dependent children and have not been able to purchase a home for myself. I am afraid for the future: when I retire I will not be able to sustain myself when rents are this high. I imagine myself flatting at an old age.”

Overcrowding

“My husband and I moved from our rental and we now live with my son and his three sons. We both get really depressed and we cry a lot as we feel we are intruding.”

“My daughter, her partner and two school age children live with me because they can’t afford a rental property as it’s only my daughter working, and had been told they’re not eligible for a state house because they earn too much and I have three adult boys as well living in a four bedroom home”.