Housing in New Zealand

So much for the NZ dream of everyone owning their own home. NZ is apparently unique in the OECD for our raipidly dropping rate of home ownership.

In NZ 37% of people rent and of that 37% only 5% are in social housing. Social housing covers state houses, council homes, and community owned housing.

In contrast, in the U.K only 30% of people are renting and 27% of these people are in social housing.

We have a tight rental market, otherwise known as a shortage of housing, in many places.  In Auckland it’s estimated we are short of over 10,000 houses. This means the market favours landowners and in practice this further marginalises the poorest people and Maori and Pacific people. 

In this context the Government is looking at reducing the Housing NZ rental stock and is moving more people more regularly into the private rental market. From July 1 Housing New Zealand has told people who were categorised as C or D on the waiting list that they are no longer elligible for a State house.  While  the HNZC website says any resident who has a low income, not many assets (things of high value you own), and a high housing need are elligible, it’s actually far more restrictive than that. I’ve been told category A is usually people being released from Prison or a psyhciatric ward.

HNZC has also introduced reviewable tenancies for all new tenants:

“A tenant’s circumstances will be reviewed once every three years to ensure their housing needs are being properly catered for. When their circumstances improve significantly and they are able to afford a home outside state housing they will be assisted to move – freeing up a state house for someone in greater need,” Mr Heatley said.

To say it’s only fair to give housing NZ houses to those most in need sounds sensible but this will actually mean children (and other people) will lack stability as their families are pushed out into the private rental market with no security of  tenancy. 

Talk to any teacher in a low decile school and they will tell you about the difficulties of helping students to achieve educationally when the family is transient. This policy will create more transient families and consequently worsen educational,social, health and economic outcomes for the the already marginalised.

I know whole families are right now crammed into single rooms in boarding houses because that’s the only place they can get that they can afford.

It would be fairer and better for our society if  we increased our social housing stock and also regulated our private rental market to ensure minimum standards.


2 responses to “Housing in New Zealand

  1. The Cost of owning your own home is a great disincentive Jan. Rates spiralling upwards along with insurance and maintenance – even if one owns a house outright – our pensioners/disabled are more owned by their house than the other way around.
    Unfortunately the last GST rise has removed any illusion of security surrounding such ownership.
    NZ is materially equipped to do better – we probably owe it to ourselves.

    • We discuss this quite alot at my work when thinking about the links between housing and health. There is international evidence that suggests a link between renting as opposed to owning and poorer health outcomes. I always find it quite fascinating because I’ve never owned a house and to be honest I may never.And it’s probably actually quite a complex picture.

      It seems an increasing number of home owners, especially those with English as another Langauge and the elderly as you say, are struggling with the costs of owning and deferring maintenance/upgrades. This is creating health problems.

      The rental market is split between high income rentals and medium cost (I don’t think any of it is really cheap) The wealthy (of certain ethnic profiles) are able to pick and choose their houses and influence the landowners to upgrade or maintain it regularly. There is also usually a sense of the landowner wanting to keep good tenants, but everyone else is put into an incredibly competitive environment and the ability to get upgrades or sometimes even maintenance done is increasingly difficult because there will be a line of people waiting to rent the house who won’t expect anything. When property investment is purely a financial exercise there is little increntive to invest in upgrading cheap housing. As one landlord has said publically ” Rats will live in any old hole”
      I think we can do better too.

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