I wouldn't have expected New Zealand to start as early as the 1960s, as Singapore did.
But 20 years later in the 1980s, as a result of the reforms undertaken by successive governments, we should have anticipated housing would be impacted.
We did nothing, or very little, and now the homeless crisis is one of the biggest issues facing New Zealand. And it isn't just a social issue, the true cost of homelessness in New Zealand runs into billions of dollars each year.
So what did Singapore do that was so remarkable?
I attended a housing conference in Sydney a couple of years ago and heard how Singapore tackled housing their citizens.
In 1960, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew established public housing, managed by the Housing and Development Board under a 99-year lease.
They were to provide 51,031 new housing units over a five-year period. How did they even get to that exact number? They delivered, and the Singaporean legacy has lived on in modern Singapore.
Now government-built houses are affordable enough for many residents to buy after some years.
According to Statistics Singapore, "90 per cent of Singaporeans own their own homes today and more than 80 per cent live in government-built residential units". Singapore has "virtually no homeless".
New Zealand is 374 times bigger than Singapore, but Singapore has about 1 million more people than we do. Perhaps being so much smaller in size, Singapore took to heart "necessity is the mother of invention". In our case, size hasn't helped much.
I still can't understand why successive governments sold New Zealand's state housing stock; let them deteriorate and failed to keep up repairs and maintenance. If housing is one of your biggest assets, why neglect it?
The cost to upgrade was given as the main reason the houses couldn't afford to be retained. "Let market forces operate in this space. They'll do it better anyway."
Vulnerable families were cut adrift to let market rentals deal to them. The decision to sell and limit the building of new houses was short-sighted. It has come at a tremendous cost to the New Zealand government (and hence the taxpayer).
Market rentals are topped up by the Government's (and hence the taxpayer) accommodation supplement. For the 2019-20 financial year, the accommodation supplement cost $1.7 billion.
The Government (and hence the taxpayer) is paying the rental home mortgages of the financially well off. The Government (and hence the taxpayer) is assisting one group of New Zealanders to get richer and another to get poorer.
How do we ensure housing solutions are fit for purpose, including housing of homeless people too?
Councils have established that many young working families can't afford, nor do they particularly want, the big houses of the past. A crippling mortgage, multiple out-of-home interests and smaller families mean councils and developers must ensure that new builds suit present-day family living.
Rather than building what was desirable 60 or even 40 years ago. Intensification is being promoted and on the rise in many cities. But this comes with its own set of problems.
Neighbourhoods, particularly those that have seen big price increases, want local councils and developers to ensure social housing doesn't occur in these areas.
Financially well-off people believe they should decide what their neighbourhoods should look like in the future and who their neighbours should be.
They drive up the price of housing and increase the divide for people who need housing and for new houses to be built.
Being homeless is not easy. One man told me recently it is soul-destroying. In the past, the majority of homeless have been men, about 80 per cent, with single males particularly overrepresented.
But now whole families have joined the ranks of the homeless. The causes of homelessness are numerous and complex. It can be caused by poverty, unemployment or by a shortage of affordable housing.
The homeless usually have limited access to resources and don't normally engage in health services. Any number of causes may require long, sustained professional help and support. Early intervention is rare.
But we now have the "working poor and the near-poor". Expressions I heard when in Washington 30 years ago and never thought I would hear in New Zealand in our towns and cities.
We prefer the homeless to be out of sight, preferably on the other side of town. Away from our comfortable, entitled neighbourhoods. We feel smug by defining people by their housing status.
Using the collective description "homeless" allows them to become anonymous people, we are dehumanising them. But behind every homeless statistic, there are real people.
Not too long ago, people without homes were referred to as vagrants, derelicts or persons of no fixed abode. The name may have changed, but they are still marginalised members of society; overcoming stereotypes, getting routinely harassed by police, and are often victims of violent attacks.
Verbal abuse by neighbours, who live in their own homes, is not uncommon. We must remember the majority of people who are without homes in the Bay of Plenty are from the Bay of Plenty.
We need to show we can house people with dignity by first understanding they want nothing more than what most of us want, and many of us already have - a place to call home. They want their own house keys too.