Larry Williams: High-rise housing estates needed in Auckland

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Listen to Larry Williams live on Newstalk ZB from 4-7pm. Today he looks at homelessness and housing.
Image / iStock
Image / iStock

The PM is being accused of being woefully out of touch on homelessness after he said that families forced to live in cars should go to Work and Income for help.

Of course, they absolutely should seek help - living in cars is unacceptable - the PM is right on that score.

The PM might be out of ideas like Labour's Andrew Little claims, but somehow I doubt it. It's more like the solutions to homelessness are far more complicated.

Nobody can surely claim that our welfare system is unfair. To the contrary, we have a world class welfare system with accommodation supplements, Working for Families and other welfare payments. Compared to other countries, our welfare system is generous.

I suspect that is part of the problem. This country's intergenerational welfare is integral to many of the social problems we have today. Labour have been leaders in this.

Redistribution of taxpayer money into welfare has been at the forefront of Labour's policies for decades. National, or should I say 'Labour Light', are no better. Successive governments are culpable in embedding the scourge of welfare. Welfare used to be a hand up, but that concept was discarded a long time ago.

Little's answer to homelessness is more welfare, a massive building programme for affordable housing, building more state houses rather than selling them off, and a clampdown on offshore speculators forcing house prices out of the reach of families.

Memo to Mr Little:

1. The offshore speculator xenophobia that was dredged up by Labour was found to be a fiction just the other week.
2. These people living in cars will never be house buyers. Prices will always be out of reach. They are lifetime renters.
3. A house is a house is a house. The state doesn't need to own that house.

The extreme welfare cost in accommodation supplements is problematic. It costs $2 billion a year with 60 per cent of landlords subsidised by the government. The cost is out of control already. It is one of the reasons why we have runaway house price inflation - investors seeking tax advantages as well as government subsidies.

READ MORE: Bryan Gould: Homelessness a problem Govt chooses to avoid

However, those serious issues aside, there is no question that there is an urgent need for more social housing and this should be addressed in the budget.

The only way to get enough social housing stock is by building high-rise housing estates like they have overseas. We need volume and scale and that is surely the only way to achieve it.

Building more state houses on quarter acre blocks is not the answer to social housing.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZME.

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