• Michael Barnett is chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

"When you play the Game of Thrones you win or you die, there is no middle ground!" says Cersei Lannister, queen, property owner and lady of many manors for over seven series of the fantasy epic.

In real life, we don't have to play that game as a "high" lord or even a "little lord", our success measured by the value of the property we own and the net debt we owe on it.

Our society is obsessed with possessions, especially owning a house, at any cost. Afford? What is that to a teacher or fireman? Is it the same to a property investor, speculator or king or queen of the castle? And what does it mean to a developer who has contracted to bring a project in on time, on budget and on spec despite labour shortages, slow consents, escalating construction and material costs and no-show infrastructure?


Our politicians are obsessed with pushing us into house ownership as a lifeline to power. They are perpetuating the expectation ingrained in our thinking since the end of World War II that property is the best way to save. Look at how the cards are stacked - low-interest loans, hand-ups for first-time house buyers, tax breaks and the imbalance of supply versus demand to hike prices and rentals to levels that are unattainable for most, but on the spectrum for the urbanite ready to curb some of their spending on lifestyle and consumables to turn suburbanite and raise a family in the comfort of one of our leafier suburbs. And so we live the dream of days of futures past.

Here's a home truth: You don't have to own a house to have a home. There are other ways of living the dream of having a secure, warm, healthy and happy home whether it is owned or rented as part of a social housing association, community co-operative, the Government or local council.

We have to redefine the concept of ownership to build well designed and constructed communities with the infrastructure, transport services, facilities, employment, amenities and shared green spaces to thrive, to be a place called home.

We love Scandi noir thrillers, let's love Scandi not-for-profit social and community housing developments, those beacons of hope that have rebalanced the inequalities of the disadvantaged with at-cost rents and security of tenure to regenerate physical, social, economic and cultural growth in rundown urban areas.

Denmark's Housing for All policy is built on the belief that affordable, decent, quality housing for people from all income levels is the foundation of a healthy family and harmonious community.

We want that too. There's a clamour for change, for breaking out of our traditional approach, to look fresh. Let's become a nation of home makers who collaborate on devising a made in New Zealand housing accord that respects the dream for everyone here to have a decent place to call home and to participate on an even footing as a valued member of a living, nurturing democracy.