No not Rodney Hyde although that sloping forehead of his perhaps …. no really, successive governments have missed one of the essential things that contribute to a healthy society.
We have seen many changes over the time that I have been cognisant of society, from the mid 70’s to be precise, there has been a common theme and that has been a lack of permanence and a growth in what I call the throw away society, interestingly enough it corresponds with the time that McDonalds opened its first store in New Zealand. Whilst there are many areas involved in our throw away society it is something more substantial than electronic goods or plastic fantastic two dollar shop rubbish. I want to discuss housing.
It is my sincere belief that housing is a key issue that is not being addressed. Since the right wing ideology of Rogernomics through progressive governments, affordable, safe and healthy housing has become a progressively scarcer commodity. The wealth gap is magnified in this area. The kind of money that is needed to buy a very basic home in some of our cities is beyond the reach of most people. A rule of thumb about house affordability gives a variety of figures from twice your annual income through up to 4 and a half times your annual income http://goo.gl/sPNp3D, so what do these figures mean.
The median household income in 2013 was somewhere around 68,000 dollars. Using the most aggressive ratio of 4.5 times annual income this puts the affordable price of a home at around three hundred thousand dollars. The national median price of homes was around four hundred and thirty thousand dollars in April 2014 http://goo.gl/ia6es5. So what does this mean to the average person? It means that many people are destined to only ever be renters in today’s society. Now that is not necessarily an issue but, and the but is big.
Renters in the private sector ( and some would say in the public sector} are subject to impermanence, often sub-standard housing, damp, cold, and old housing that is often for lower income families overcrowded as people need to share accommodation because they cannot afford accommodation of their own. Permanence is sorely lacking in many areas of our life, our labour market is flexible with a high degree of casualisation. The idea of a secure job for a lifetime is seen as an archaic anachronism. As a State Statutory Social Worker I saw many children who were what I called transient, I recently heard an example of a primary school in Auckland that has a annual roll turn over in the region of 40% plus. Transience in education is a huge problem.
I had a degree of transience as I grew up. We were living in Gisborne and my dad saw the writing on the wall for Gisborne and moved us to the Waikato. We moved around the Waikato as Dad sought permanent, sustainable employment when at the age of 11 my parents bought a house and we were able to put down roots. It wasn’t flash but it was home. I don’t remember being cold although it probably was, but it was home. No land lord to decide to sell the house or put in other tenants. It was big enough (almost) although times were tough and we always seemed to have boarders although a lot of this was social need that my parents responded to. It certainly improved my life in many ways.
I could ramble on here for a long time but I see my word count creeping up and I don’t seem to be saying a lot however it is a complex subject and I guess I need to articulate that which I think may help to solve the issue. It is election year but I do not see either of the major parties having truly innovative housing policy. I think a large reason for this is because of vested interests, over-valued houses, obscene opportunities to make tax free capital gains which if a major price correction were to occur could set off another credit crisis. I will follow up this blog with some ideas I have around housing policy, but that will need to wait until the second instalment of Small Town Syndrome.
Till next time