Many PSA members in government and community agencies are working hard to address the lack of affordable housing in Aotearoa.
We also appreciate the government’s commitment to invest in more housing, infrastructure and Māori housing programmes.
But the gap between housing demand and supply continues to push up house prices and rents, while the waiting list for public housing grows.
In June this year, there were 24,474 applicants on the public housing register, an increase of 32.1 percent compared with the same time last year.
The Council of Trade Unions believes the Government could be doubling the rate of house building to clear the waiting list of people already assessed as in need of state housing, and to add capacity to expand the criteria to include more working families in need of affordable housing.
PSA member Ben Schmidt sees the impact of the housing shortage in his mahi with the Manawatu Tenants Union.
He regularly assists people who have nowhere to go and need a bed for a night.
“We help get them in to emergency housing, which is not a home and should only be short term, but it’s often longer term.”
Ben also advocates for those who have a home but are facing increasingly unaffordable rent increases.
“The only legal limit is market rent, and with the way prices are going up that is just about meaningless. So we are seeing increases of more than $100 - $180 a week.
“There are no sensible restrictions to ensure people pay affordable rent and have secure housing.”
PSA member and Renters United organiser Robert Whitaker agrees the lack of affordable housing is driving rents up and up, fuelling the crisis for tenants.
“The market is broken, there is not enough housing so people are having to take houses regardless of price or condition.”
Robert says the lack of supply is exacerbated by middle class people who can’t afford to buy homes, staying in the rental market longer.
PSA organiser and Housing Action Porirua co-ordinator Jasmine Taankink says the mixed-model of state and private housing developments in Porirua and other cities is also contributing to the crisis.
“The current model privatises public land and gentrifies areas. Communities are pushed out in various ways, evicted from state housing, relocated out of the area, or evicted by landlords who are selling to the development.
“Others just can no longer afford the rent or to buy a house in the area they were raised due to rapidly escalating house prices which are a direct result of this style of development.”
MASSIVE INVESTMENT NEEDED
Housing was identified as the top issue for PSA members in a recent survey.
In response to the crisis, the PSA is calling for massive investment from the government to ensure all New Zealanders have access to warm, dry, energy-efficient housing.
“Affordable housing is fundamental to our quality of life and is one of the universal basic services we are calling for as part of our Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment,” PSA President Benedict Ferguson says.
“The government has a duty to fulfil its human rights obligations to provide adequate shelter for all.
“It’s also uniquely positioned to embark on a comprehensive social housing building programme, due to its ability to raise low-interest loans, and to plan to address housing needs on a national scale.”
“We need to agree, once and for all, that public-private partnerships do not work. Mahi this important must be funded directly by the government.”
A GROWING COALITION
The PSA is also throwing its support behind Aotearoa Action on Renting and State Housing (AARSH), a coalition of union, faith, student and community organisations seeking urgent action on renting and state housing.
“To make any change we need people power,” says Ben Schmidt, who is involved in the formation of AARSH.
“So we’re coming together to campaign for more state housing, rental controls, liveable homes, and accessible homes for disabled people.”
The PSA also supports the call by Renters United for the government to introduce rent controls, including limiting rent increases to no more than the cost of inflation.
“If we don’t control rents now it will spiral further out of control,” Renters United's Robert Whitaker says.
Jasmine Taankink says more needs to be done to support and fund iwi-led solutions for Māori.
“One way of doing this is returning the land to iwi or hapū and then leasing it from them. Iwi and hapū could then use that money for sustainable housing solutions such as papakāinga or work collaboratively with other iwi to support housing for uri living outside of their rohe.”
PSA President Benedict Ferguson says our members can contribute to a transformation of social housing in New Zealand.
“Our members in central and local government, and community and iwi providers, have an excellent understanding of the most vulnerable in our society, and knowledge of how to design and build liveable houses and communities.”
Find out more and get involved at www.letsdoevenbetter.nz/housing, www.facebook.com/AotearoaActionOnRentingAndStateHousing and www.rentersunited.org.nz/.
Main picture caption: Renters United organiser Robert Whitaker