Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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state housing new zealand

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Housing NZ Current waiting list

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

  • 728 were C (assessed before 30 June 2011)

  • 461 were D (assessed before 30 June 2011)

Acknowledgment: Housing NZ – Waiting list

Some facts;

  1. As at 30 April this year, Housing NZ had 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists (Categories C and D are so low priority that their chances of getting into a state house are next to nil). (see:  IBID)
  2. According to Housing NZ, they had 69,400 properties in the 2011/12 financial year (see: HNZ –Addressing housing demand).  This has probably reduced significantly as many rental properties – such as in Pomare, Lower Hutt – were demolished in June 2011 (see: Pomare housing demolition begins).
  3. Child poverty in New Zealand has increased;
    In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see:  Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)
  4.  A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries.  We are  now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety.  (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)

In the past, one of the principle means by which  New Zealand has attempted to ameliorate the  destructive effects of poverty is for the provision of State housing, where tenants pay 25% of their household’s net income (See:  HNZ –Income-related rent)

For thousand of low-income New Zealanders, this has meant the difference between this,

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state house new zealand nz

Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house

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Or this,

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homelessWoman

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Unfortunately, too many New Zealanders have a narrow view of life and society in general, and cannot accept that in a civilised society there is a dire need for the State to provide housing for those who cannot manage, or, have fallen on hard times – especially during the Global Financial Crisis. But that need exists, and it is the price we pay for living in a decent society where beggars do not line the streets.

Even those who grudingly admit that social housing is a necessity still  hold to the belief that State housing is for “short term emergencies”, and not for any longer period.

This writer thoroughly disagrees and disputes that notion.

The principle of  housing is not just to provide a roof  over people’s heads and give them warm shelter from cold and rain.

Social housing – as the name ‘social‘ implies – is  where those on the lower socio-economic scale (ie, the poor)  can  create communities; offer mutual support; perhaps grow food for themselves in their backyards; and where children can put down roots and attend their local school on a steady, uninterupted basis.

The last thing we need now is those on low incomes (or vulnerable in other ways) being evicted from their state homes and  forced into a life of transience – or trapped in high-cost rental accomodation, leaving little aside for food, medicines, clothing, etc.

This is precisely what National appears to be planning;

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State tenants face 'high need' review

Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

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National’s 2013 Budget proposes;

Reviews of state housing tenants will be phased in from next year. Housing New Zealand estimates the reviews will lead to 1000 tenants moving out of state houses in 2015-16 and a further 2000 in 2016-17. About 10,000 tenants are already subject to reviews, if they signed an agreement after July 2011.

Assessment for housing will also be carried out by the Ministry of Social Development and integrated with other services.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Bill English described it with words that belied the misery that such a policy could create,

It can become a trap for those whose circumstances could improve.  We want to ensure people are in the most appropriate houses for them.

We will be looking at when tenants’ circumstances change and when they no longer have higher needs and will help to move them into other housing.”

Acknowledgment: Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed

Only a Tory who has never know deprivation, hunger, and hopelessness could call a decent chance for a warm home as a “trap”.

It’s the same weasel words that National uses for welfare payments that can put food in unemployed person’s belly.

It’s not a “trap” – it’s a lifeline for survival.

English refers to “moving tenants into other housing“.

What housing? There is a critical shortage of low-cost rental housing in this country.

Moving a tenant on a low or fixed income into a $300-$400/week rental will achieve nothing except push the poor further into poverty.

It will also inevitably  increase transience, as tenants fall behind in market rents and have to move on a regular basis. This uproots children from their school.

And it eventually leads to shocking incidents like this;

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child poverty - social housing

Acknowledgment:  CYF lost track of neglected children

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Welfare minister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the obvious,

Because of the family’s transience, living in a number of regions, I am unable to give detailed information and an actual number [of social worker visits] at this time.

What I can say is there has been previous Child, Youth and Family involvement and notifications over many years, but Child, Youth and Family was unaware that they were at that [Lower Hutt] residence until January 4, when the police were involved.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

So, let’s be clear about this: forcing low income people from their homes is a pointless excercise in futility that achieves nothing except exacerbate poverty.

It creates unnecessary stress in already stressed families.

We will see ghastly consequences of families pushed further into poverty and unable to cope with financial pressures.

And, as usual, it will be the children who suffer the most.

All for what? What possible purpose or benefit is there in pushing people out of their homes and out of their local community?

Remember the stats above?

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

National has never been a Party to promote  socially proactive programmes. At best they tolerate what Labour governments have built up over decades (like social housing).

The waiting list – 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists – is obviously an embarressment to National ministers.

But instead of building an extra 3,400 houses or flats (which is doable), National has tackled the waiting list in a novel way; displace existing tenants into private accomodation, and re-tenant with those 3,379 in Caregories A and B.

It is a cynical manipulation of people’s lives so National ministers can, at next year’s election, claim that they have “eliminated” the state housing waiting list.

A “revolving door” of poor tenants is National’s cunning plan to solve the state housing shortage.

In the meantime, we will see more and more stories like this in our media,

The parents, a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, have pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical care, food and nutrition to the children, aged 4, 3, 2, and 7 months.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said in Parliament yesterday that her staff had been aware of the family for many years, but the agency lost track of them when they moved from Whanganui towards the end of last year.

Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children

A Message to John Key & other National clowns

In an op-ed piece in the Dominion Post on  17 May, former-Labour President, Mike Williams wrote that National policies – especially relating to poverty and housing – would hand “the Labour Party a golden opportunity to win the general election next year“. (see  Budget: Stirring state house voters)

Williams further stated,

Budget 2013 gives a very large group who don’t turn out to vote on a regular basis a very good reason to cast their ballots next year. These are state house tenants.

What we all know is that there are just under 70,000 state rental houses in this country. What Labour discovered in 2004 was that there are between three and four enrolled voters per household and that a large majority of these potential electors do not bother to cast a ballot on a regular basis.

The threat to state house tenants planned for election year by National is a gift to Labour in a tight contest. Nearly everyone in a state house will have their tenancy reviewed and 10 per cent of these people will be moved on. That nice Mr Key has grown teeth.

On September 17, 2005, Don Brash was denied victory at the last moment by increased participation in South and West Auckland, north Wellington and east Christchurch – just where you find lots of state houses.

Acknowledgment: IBID

A bit of simple arithmetic: nearly 70,000 state homes times three or four enrolled voters per household equals 210,000 voters (conservative estimate).

Considering that the 2011 election yielded the following voting results,

National: 1,058,638

Labour: 614,936

Greens: 247,370

Add 200,000 votes to Labour and the Greens – and National will be  out of office. And Key is out of a job.

Make no mistake, Mr Key; Labour, the Greens, and Mana will work in concert to target every single state house and flat  at the next election.  Every person will be made aware of National’s intentions. Every single state house tenant will be warned that their continuing tenancy will depend on National being voted out of office.

National has just made 200,000 new enemies.

Nicely done, Mr English – a political suicide note dressed up as a “budget”.

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References

Fairfax Media: Parents accused of neglecting kids (11 Jan 2013)

Fairfax Media: Neglected kids back home in days (15 May 2013)

Fairfax Media: CYF lost track of neglected children (16 May 2013)

NZ Herald:  Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed (16 May 2013)

Dominion Post: State tenants face ‘high need’ review (17 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Budget: Stirring state house voters (17 May 2013)

Additional

Previous related blogposts

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  1. Black Betty
    19 May 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Build 3,400 new state houses? Where will we get the money from?

  2. 19 May 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Too true Frank. It’s the same Tory BS that brought us National Standards in schools, the recent benefit categories and punitive sanctions bill – make vulnerable and poor people, children, beneficiaries et al jump through more hoops, undergo testing, sanctions, etc. It is an excuse for not doing anything positive. Instead of resources schools properly we have …more tests. Instead of helping beneficiaries or HNZ tenants, give them more paper-work, hoop-jumping etc. It is a big show put on for the benefit of Tory voters who love a good moral panic. A home for everyone I say.

    I live in a State house and from my inadvertent, in-passing observations of my neighbour’s lifestyles the ones most likely to get kicked out for earning full-time wages are . . . single ladies in their fifties and sixties who work in rest homes. Do we as a society really want to be withdrawing affordable housing from people like them?
    Most of the rest of the tenants in my block are either recent immigrants, elderly, people with disabilities or otherwise on benefits. Not much chance they will qualify as undeserving by HNZ. No, only the productive workers who are on their own and nearing retirement age, who work in a minimum wage, thankless industry like retirement homes. Out they go!

  3. 19 May 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Same place government found money to subsidise ‘The Hobbit’, the Rugby World Cup, new BMW ministerial limousines, ministerial air travel, and nearly a billion buck for “consultants” (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10833308).

  4. 19 May 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Betty, there are vastly valuable lumps of land under some state houses. I believe in selling selected, high-value state houses to raise money to build more in cheaper areas. That way the government could actively intervene in the housing market, supply low-cost first homes to those who couldn’t otherwise afford them and increase the total housing stock in the NZ.

  5. Deborah Kean
    21 May 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I live on my own in HCNZ house, now that my son has grown up and moved to Welly (and I would do the same if I could!). I was about to move out when the company I worked for fell over, and I lost my job. They say the problem is youth unemployment, but I don’t know any unemployed people under 30 (who don’t already have disabilities!) – but everyone I know who’s over 50 is unemployed, whether they consider themselves to be or not! (Two are ‘housewives’). What that means is that I have been unemployed for 5 years now. Therefore my need is as high as it ever was when I was a solo DPB mother!
    Now, I am worried. I need a state house, as I get $204.00 a week, and can’t pay more than $51.00 rent. But will I be seen as having needs? I fear not, even though my experience and that of others, shows that I have 0% chance of getting a job,
    Deb

  6. 21 May 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Debs, even Matthew Hooton on the Political panel segment on Radio NZ’s “Nine to Noon” show admitted that National had made a big mistake on this issue. In effect, it has made an enemy of 200,000 State house tenants.

    Every state house in the country will need to be leafletted and visited to advise them of National’s plans. If that doesn’t motivate people to go and and vote, I dunno what will.

    Hopefully the Nats wll be out of government in 2014, before anyone faces eviction.

    • Deborah Kean
      22 May 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Yes, let’s hope so! It’s clearly an excuse/reason not to build more State Houses!
      Deb

  1. 10 June 2017 at 7:30 am
  2. 15 June 2017 at 8:01 pm

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