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Exorbitant house prices, an insufficient housing stock, high rents, cold, damp rental houses and overcrowding are putting families under pressure. Salvation Army social policy analyst, ALAN JOHNSON talks to MARIE ANTICICH about the housing crisis.

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inter is here and our thoughts turn towards home – a warm, dry, comfortable home. But for many Kiwis the dream of home ownership is becoming a nightmare of skyrocketing house prices, escalating rents overcrowding and homelessness. Home ownership in New Zealand has reached its lowest level in 60 years and the government is coming under scrutiny for its handling of the Auckland housing crisis. Although house building has increased in Auckland, the shortage of housing continues to worsen, mainly because of high net migration. This is bad news for both tenants and would-be house-buyers. Salvation Army social policy analyst Alan Johson, author of the army’s ‘Moving Targets’ 2016 State of the Nation report, says house prices are increasing faster than wages, making it hard for the average wage or salary earner to buy a home. Many of those who have bought a home are mortgaged to the hilt, and the house price bonanza is increasing household debt almost to levels seen before the 2008 global financial crisis. Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit director, Lt Colonel Ian Hutson says the government needs to urgently address root causes of the housing crises and examine possible solutions, such as investment and development in the regions and the building of large scale State residential housing projects. Lt Col Hutson is concerned that

ingrained inequality and poverty is causing many to live at a grim level of misery with homelessness, overcrowding, child poverty and its attendant ill health, dysfunction and loss of opportunities becoming accepted as the new norm. Despite the significant upturn in residential building activity in Auckland – more consents for new dwellings were issued in 2015 than in any of the previous ten years – the overall deficit of housing continues to widen, due to even stronger population growth. “We need to build around 13,000 new houses a year to keep up with the demand for housing in Auckland but we’re only building around 10,000 houses, and so the shortfall keeps increasing. What we’re seeing on our TV screens and the homelessness in our streets is a consequence of what we haven’t done over the last five to ten years,” says Mr Johnson. “There’s a gap between income

16 | The Christian Pulse, August/September 2016

and housing values. No-one is building cheaper houses and so we now have a critical shortage of affordable housing – new houses in Papakura are costing $1.1 million. People ask me ‘What’s affordable?’ and I say ‘Anything less than $400,000.’ Unspectacular houses in Auckland are selling for twice that price,” he remarks. “Many households don’t earn a lot of money and couples with a combined income of say $50,000 can’t afford to buy a home. That’s when you get two or three families crowding into one house in South Auckland, and spilling into garages, caravans and shacks on the lawn. Over-crowding places huge stress on families and facilitates the spread of respiratory illnesses and diseases.” It’s not just an Auckland problem. “Population pressure is spreading to Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Wellington. People at the bottom end of the housing market in those communities are finding it tough to

The Christian Pulse August/September 2016  

Welcome to the latest issue of The Christian Pulse, the magazine for www.mychristiandaily.com. This issue we feature 'How Not to Sacrifice Y...