Leaders of Labour, National and the Green Party all pledged last night to build at least another 1000 state houses a year in Auckland, if they win the election.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, National’s deputy leader Nicola Willis and the Greens’ co-leader Marama Davidson were guests at the launch in Māngere of Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga Tāmaki Makaurau, an umbrella group for the social housing sector.
Te Ohu combines 45 groups, including community housing providers, churches, unions and community networks such as I Love Avondale.
All three politicians were asked to sign a pledge to build at least 1000 more state houses net, each year, and to meet with Te Ohu on a quarterly basis to review progress.
Anglican Bishop Ross Bay told the politicians they were welcome and said in the midst of the noise of an election campaign, one of the reasons for Te Ohu to exist was to “help those in poverty be heard”.
“If we don’t have a seat at the table,” said the evening’s co-chair Nina Santos from the YWCA, “it’s because we’re on the menu.”
The politicians all signed the pledge.
Several members of the Te Ohu groups told their personal stories of homelessness, and the evening was punctuated with kapa haka performance items by children from Te Kūra o Pātiki - Rosebank School.
Hipkins told the crowd of about 500 in the Lesieli Tonga Auditorium that he grew up in a state house built by the Labour Government in the 1950s. “And I’m very proud that we are building more state houses today than at any time since the 50s,” he said.
“Labour has exceeded the 1000 commitment. We’ve built 12,000 social house units since 2017, and 7000 of them have been in Tāmaki Makaurau. But there is more work to be done.”
He reminded the audience that the last National Government had sold state houses, not built them.
Davidson said that housing is “a human right and a core public good”. The Greens’ commitment was greater than that of the other parties: it wanted to build 35,000 more public houses in the next five years, and resource the construction sector and the government’s state housing provider Kāinga Ora to get it done.
“We will also put a cap on rent increases and introduce a minimum income guarantee, to lift people out of poverty.”
Willis told the audience there were 2468 people on the state house waiting list in Auckland when Labour took office in 2017, and now there are 8175.
“Here’s the thing. If you don’t like the result you’re getting, you don’t keep doing the same thing. We don’t think social housing should just be provided by Kāinga Ora. We want the Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity and other community housing providers to be much more involved.”
Members of that sector were at the meeting and one confirmed the community housing sector is already building a substantial proportion of new social housing.
The meeting was interrupted towards the end by a protester from Auckland Action Against Poverty.
Brooke Pao Stanley shouted that Hipkins and Willis had failed. “How can we trust you’ll do anything when you’re responsible for the mess we’re in now?” She was escorted out by members of the audience.
The evening was brought to an end by Sister Margaret Martin of the Sisters of Mercy in Wiri.
“So, political leaders,” she said. “Be forewarned. We will hold you to account.”
Simon Wilson is a senior writer covering politics, the climate crisis, transport, housing, urban design and social issues, with a focus on Auckland. He joined the Herald in 2018.