One of the enduring and historical problems with the shortage of quality rental properties is how this affects different strata in society. The law of supply and demand is pretty simple, when a resource is limited, competition to secure that resource means that the price will go up. Invariably this means that those who earn less are those whom miss out on the resource, in this instance housing, duh nothing new here you say. Low income people have had it like this for many years. Note carefully, low income does not equate being on a benefit, there are many people who are employed but live on a low income.
In the past this was not such a problem as there was a reasonable safety net provided by way of public housing, mainly provided by central government with a smaller amount provided by local government. This was not perfect however there was also a lot of employer provided housing from local authorities, railways, electricity companies, police, schools, dairy industry and so forth. Farms were smaller and offered accommodation for employees as well. So what has happened to all of this? Well neo-liberal economic politics essentially, some might say unintended consequences however these consequences were well signalled, further hardship was caused to beneficiaries by what was euphemistically called the mother of all budgets, see here for some effects of that http://tinyurl.com/motherofallpain. There was other effects as well, many believed it caused further unemployment and also many small businesses failed or struggled.
The effects of this neo-liberal ideology caused a great deal of discontent with the National Party, they however retained power in the next election. Some may argue that this is clearly democracy in action however two things occurred, the public voted to remove the first past the post electoral system (FPP) and replaced it with MMP (mixed member proportional representation). One of the reasons that the National Party remained in power is that the policy created winners and losers, and unfortunately the winners were people who were more likely to vote and who had political agency. The end result was not democracy but tyranny, majority rules is not democratic.
This deliberate policy of selling off housing stock and not replacing it with new builds at the same rate created the conditions for a spiralling perfect storm, increasing demand for housing by population growth and decreasing availability. Once the Auckland factor is added in there is no surprise that so many problems that have their root in the availability of housing are prevalent. One school in Auckland had a reported 50% pupil turnover in a year, renters talk about 6 properties in a year, and the churn is incredible and costly. The incidence of Rheumatic fever equals that in many parts of the developing world giving is third world rates of harm to children in vulnerable families. The effects on mental health are obvious as part of the whole neo-liberal policies sees mental health institutions closed down and many ex patients left to find their way in society with an ever shrinking pool of money to assist them.
The problem is that the struggle for people affected by these policies is often invisible. I have had the opportunity to see into the kitchens and lounges of these people, 15 people living in a three bedroom house is not unknown. I have also unfortunately had personal experience in the rental market, having to live in substandard, un-insulated cold, damp, mould prone housing due to the lack of affordable healthy housing. I am fortunate to be in my own house now that is relatively warm with reliable heating and a good degree of insulation.
I have laid out a brief synopsis of the issues around housing. I will turn my attention to solutions in the near future. In the meantime spare a thought for those who have to endure substandard housing as we venture towards winter, especially the vulnerable in our society, the children and the elderly.