Andrew Little: Govt should attack housing crisis, not families in need

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Homeless father of four, Tony Lepage with his 2 year-old son Tangaroa, has had to seek accommodation at Te Puea Marae, Mangere Bridge. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Homeless father of four, Tony Lepage with his 2 year-old son Tangaroa, has had to seek accommodation at Te Puea Marae, Mangere Bridge. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The other day the Prime Minister told us his "flying squads" had found eight people living in cars. They'd knocked on their doors, but they weren't interested in being helped, he said.

Pull the other one.

How could they only find eight people when Auckland's Te Puea Marae is full to bursting after opening its doors to homeless families? Turns out John Key was making it up and the homeless people that were spoken to hadn't refused help. In fact no-one had knocked on any car doors at all.

National has failed New Zealanders on housing. Budget 2016 delivered nothing to give young families a chance to buy their own home. It slashed funding for home insulation by two-thirds. It continued John Key's cruel policy of taking a $118m a year profit out of Housing New Zealand at the same time families are living in cars because there aren't enough state houses.

No wonder 76 per cent of Kiwis say there is a housing crisis, and this Government has failed to fix it. Just one in four adults under 40 own their own place today. House prices are rising at 30 times the rate of inflation. 16,000 houses are year are being bought by foreign speculators. Record numbers are living in cars and garages.

The truth, as revealed by a new study from Otago University, is that 42,000 Kiwis are suffering 'severe housing deprivation' - homelessness, in other words.

That was up by 25 per cent in just seven years. We are a country that rightly used to pride ourselves on looking after all our people. We used to look in horror at wealthy countries that had people living on the streets. Under National, we have become one of those countries.

John Key's 'they want to be homeless' line is typical of this Government. When the Government faces a situation like this, they treat it as a political problem. They play silly games, refusing to use the word 'crisis', or attacking the people who are talking about it, the media included.

Most of the people living at the sharp end of the housing crisis are good parents, trying their best for their kids with what they have - like we all do. If some have made mistakes, then that's true of any group of people. But that doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to them or their kids, as National wants us to do.

And anyway, the housing crisis is about all of us. It affects young people getting up to their eyeballs in debt for a basic starter home, renting families who can't save enough even for a deposit, older Kiwis watching their children struggle to get a place of their own, and kids who are bounced from school to school as their parents have to change rentals.

There's no single solution to the housing crisis, which is why Labour has a set of practical policies: building thousands of affordable first homes for families to buy; banning foreign speculators; removing the artificial urban growth boundary that only benefits land bankers; ensuring rentals are warm and dry; and ending the Government's bleeding of Housing New Zealand for dividends so it can build more houses for those families most in need.

New Zealand can be a country that restores the Kiwi dream of homeownership. We can be a country that gives young families a real chance at buying a home.

We can be a country that ensures every child has a roof over their heads, and their home is healthy to live in. We can be a country where our houses aren't used as gambling chips by foreign speculators.

Andrew Little is the leader of the Labour Party.

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- NZ Herald

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