As a Statutory Social Worker one of the tasks I had to complete was to determine whether I believed a child or young person was in need of care and protection,this occurred after a full investigation, we had a tool that listed the criteria we had to consider one of those things was transience, that is shifting from house to house and all the accompanying changes,schools doctors friends appointments etc. In the decile one schools (schools in the poorest area) in New Zealand transiency was averaged at 70 % that is seven out of ten pupils did not end the year in the school they started in. Some of these children may have been in 3 or more schools. Well this post is not so much about that subject but it is very much is.
Home ownership rates have fallen by 10% from a high of 74 per cent in 1991 to a 60-year low of 64 per cent. Whilst ten percent is not so huge what needs to be considered is who are the people who don’t own a house anymore. In 1972 my parents bought a house, the cost $18,000. The house was old, not a straight corner in it, (believe me I learnt this as my dad attempted to wallpaper it and some new un-parliamentary language). Previous to this we had lived in a number of rental homes for varying periods. I can remember 6 homes and 4 primary schools. The shifts were around employment. New Zealand had started to change. 15 Park Street still stands, we don’t own it but it was a period of stability,it was home.
My parents always made places home but here was a place that was ours and the school changes stopped, we were able to put roots down beyond our relatives and form relationships, an important part of well-being. I wont talk anymore about us, time for that in another blog. The Salvation Army has just released a report on housing and New Zealand and it contains some sobering information worthy of consideration. http://tinyurl.com/SalvationArmyHousingReport.
It illustrates the scale of the fallout from that collapse in home ownership from 1991. Not only has it handicapped the education, health and productivity of an entire generation of New Zealanders, but it is set to magnify the likely growth in pension and healthcare costs of our ageing population. I remember my ex father in law saying at one stage in his retirement that if anything went wrong at least they could eat their house, meaning he could sell it and use the money or engineer a reverse mortgage on it.
Bernard Hickey summarises it well here Bernard Hickey on Home Ownership. The outcome of a massive decrease in home ownership has obviously been in the increase of private rentals. So what you might say, well there are good landlords and bad and what we have is a a generation and more of people growing up in rentals that were historically poorly insulated, damp, cold and full of mould. Children have died as a result of this. Couple this with a huge decrease in the provision of social housing in actual and real terms then we have a problem Houston. the problem is an ongoing shortage of quality affordable rental housing. Successive governments have not taken this seriously. The current administration has not raised the accommodation supplement since 2007. This supplement is supposed to pick up the slack for low income earners to counter the increased rents, (not that an increase in this would solve the problem it is more likely that landlords would just put up rents and snaffle the increase). The Government continues to allow tax free gains to occurr via the non taxation of capital gains from the sale of investment properties but even taxation of these properties will not solve the issue.
Hickey’s take on this is that we will have poverty amongst the elderly on a large scale. This is in addition to the other societal problems that we are already experiencing. There is a fundamental ideological aversion to dealing with the problem, apart from the whole construction of debt and wealth which frankly is way beyond the scope of this article or this authors expertise, it is one of the many curses of neo-liberalism that are a blight on our society, more on that later.
A preliminary answer is a huge increase in warm healthy affordable social housing as well as a fundamental rethink about rental accommodation and the nature of wealth in New Zealand, there are so many fundmental problems within society that start because of transiency and no place to call home.