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Changing minds; changing lives

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, March 26th, 2013 - 14 comments
Categories: child welfare, cost of living, Environment, families, greens, housing, Metiria Turei, poverty, public services - Tags: , , , , ,

Last night I went to a Green Party public meeting in West Auckland, on their Home for Life, Affordable Housing policy. The speakers were Metiria Turei, Holly Walker and Alan Johnson (of the Child Poverty Action Group and Salvation Army).  It gave me a better understanding of the policy and the Green Party approach to it.

Holly Walker

Holly Walker

The GP aim to start small and with the achievable, working with the available resources, their degree of political leverage, selected priorities and given the dominant Kiwi attitudes on housing. Their first and most immediate priority is children and the need to ensure that none live in poverty or with the enduring impact of growing up in sub-standard housing.  The long term aim is to make housing and related community facilities, services and provisions accessible to all: from birth to retirement.

Turei harked back to the 1940s, when Labour’s policies resulted in the state intervening to provide secure housing for working families, and people on low incomes. She said their vision is of a community where a mother can easily walk with her children to an early childhood centre, and all the other facilities, services and activities that contribute to a good quality of life.

Selwyn Manning interviews Alan Johnson

Selwyn Manning interviews Alan Johnson

Alan Johnson talked of the negative impact of Rogernomics, that resulted in leaky homes (one of the reasons that the amalgamation of Auckland councils became necessary).  Both argued that the market has failed to provide affordable housing.  Only the government can ensure this is achieved through “hands on” provisions (yes Turei used the “hands on” concept).

Throughout people referred to a need for a change of mindset in order for these aims to be achieved for all.  The necessary changes of mindset that were mentioned included:

  • the shift from seeing housing as an investment opportunity which distorts the economy, to seeing it as part of the country’s core infrastructure;
  • from a focus on  individuals and nuclear families in isolation, to families as part of strong communities;
  • from a focus on money and moving up the housing ladder, to housing as a place of health and security, with a good quality of life;
  • from a strong focus on owning property in a way that encourages below standard rentals, to security of tenure in healthy and well-maintained rental accommodation;
  • from social distinctions between owning and renting, to neighbourhoods where visitors cannot tell which homes are owner-occupied, which are HNZ or housing association properties and which ones are privately rented.
Denise Roche (centre), who joined the Qu & A

Denise Roche (centre), who joined the Qu & A

Some of the issues the Qu & A session threw up were largely around the home for life policy that enables families to begin renting properties and gradually paying into owning it themselves:

What happens when the family moves on and sells the house?  The homes will not be sold on to the private market, but back to the original sellers: HNZ or the housing association, etc.

Won’t this mean that people who enter into the Home for Life programme, will never be able to move up the housing ladder?  Possibly, this is where a change of mindset is required.  However, Turei also said Green Policies aim to work on “the other end” of the issue, to stop house price inflation with things like a Capital Gains Tax.

What about large families (eg with 10 children)?  Will there be homes for life for them? Turei answered first saying that, the programme initially would be providing homes for smaller families. However, Holly Walker added that it might be possible to cater to such families with a bit of innovative, out-of-the-box building designs: e.g. a group of houses with a shared/communal spaces/rooms/buildings available to more than one house.

Would the Green Party provide significant support to housing associations, unlike the current NAct government?  Yes.  The Greens would push for more support for housing associations  e.g. when HNZ needs to sell houses in a specific area, they should be sold to housing associations and not on the open market.

How can strong communities be encouraged: eg ones that include “time banking ” and shared facilities and activities?  To some extent communities can do things themselves.  Roche said that last weekend, her neighbourhood had organised a BBQ that involved closing off the road.  However, government policies can help encourage community interactions through housing an neighbourhood designs.  When people walk or cycle they are more likely to interact with others than when they are travelling about shut up in their cars.

At the end Turei said that Denise Roche was preparing something (I got distracted) – I think a response to the Auckland Unitary Plan, to be posted online some time after Easter.  Earlier Turei had expressed some reservations about the Plan, because it could encourage urban sprawl.  (Yesterday I was a bit taken aback at Sandra Coney’s exposure of Auckland Council’s continuing membership of the Property Council).

The Greens are the reaching out to communities with such meetings.  Nevertheless, in my (superficial visual) judgement, the people attending were mainly, but not exclusively, Pakeha.  For instance, the guy who thanked the speakers on behalf of the west Auckland Green Party, and a woman who expressed concerns about housing for her retirement were Pasifika people.  Those who asked questions from the floor appeared to be largely from the middle-classes, albeit while expressing concerns for those on low incomes. More needs to be done to directly engage with the people most in need of affordable housing, as the Mana Party does.

This policy is going in the right (meaning left) direction.  I like the openness to debate, and the acknowledgement of the need for new kinds of thinking, a shift towards engaged communities with a good quality of life.  Turei said that they have published their Home for Life policy so they could get some feedback.  They welcom submissions, ideas, input, suggestions, etc, on it from anyone.

14 comments on “Changing minds; changing lives ”

  1. Colonial Weka 1

    Great write up Karol, thanks.

    The GP website says that submissions on the housing policy closed on the March 1st. I wonder if someone can clarify.

    http://www.greens.org.nz/housing

    They’re doing the same meeting in Wellington on April 3

    http://www.greens.org.nz/events/giving-our-kids-home-life-public-meeting-better-housing-wellington-holly-walker-mp-and-metiri

  2. karol 2

    Good point, weka.

    And on my point about the Greens needing to reach out more to low income people, I have just seen GP notices of meetings in Kaitaia (2nd April) and Sth Auckland (3rd April) on the destructive impact of low incomes.

    False Economy: The high cost of a low wage economy with Jan Logie and Denise Roche

    How the Government’s drive for a low-wage
    economy affects us all with Green Party
    MPs Jan Logie and Denise Roche. With
    speakers from a range of organisations
    including those representing unions, women,
    people with disabilities, youth, migrant and
    refugee communities, Maori and Pasifika
    communities, and more…

    Though the Mana Party’s approach is more being on the streets actively participating in struggles alongside low income groups.

  3. Rogue Trooper 3

    Greens have to achieve the political power afirst
    (not surprised to read of middle-class capture; oh well, many will become the “struggling” class, given time.)

    • karol 3.1

      Actually, Turei did say that over half a million families in NZ now rent, and that the biggest decline in home ownership is for middle income families.

      I do think middle-class people are more likely to go to public meetings and to stand up and contribute. Thus I think the Mana strategy is a good one, struggling alongside the least powerful people on the streets.

      But, meetings of relevant groups in low income areas may be a step towards engaging more with low income people.

  4. just saying 4

    Excellent as always Karol.

    It did my heart good to hear some good news for a change.

    But this is something that been on my mind for ages regarding a number of political and community issues:

    Nevertheless, in my (superficial visual) judgement, the people attending were mainly, but not exclusively, Pakeha. For instance, the guy who thanked the speakers on behalf of the west Auckland Green Party, and a woman who expressed concerns about housing for her retirement were Pasifika people. Those who asked questions from the floor appeared to be largely from the middle-classes*, albeit while expressing concerns for those on low incomes. More needs to be done to directly engage with the people most in need of affordable housing, as the Mana Party does.

    What do we do about this everybody? Te Mana has limited resources and we can’t expect them to do all the heavy lifting here. Maybe we could brainstorm ideas.

    We have a responsibility here imo. People have been excluded, ignored and discriminated against, often for their lifetimes.

    *I think some who appear middle-class may not be. I often go out wearing my best middle class disguise (which isn’t even that flash) because I prefer to no be treated like dog vomit.

    • karol 4.1

      A good point, js. My visually-based judgements were more on ethnicity. The class judgements were more based on style and content of speaking. In my experience, many middle-class people, especially lefties, tend to dress down for such occasions.

      e.g. One guy talked about the community centred around his children’s school in glen Eden. he identified himself as middle-class, but also talked about the diversity of income levels and ethnicity in the community, and their differeing needs. Others mentioned their roles or group affiliations.

      But, I agree my judgements were pretty superficial. Even that still indicated a certain amount of diversity at the meeting.

      However, I do think there is a lot of evidence that many on low incomes have become politically disengaged, and this is an on-going challenge. (I also think the Labour caucus has become more engaged with the middle-classes than they were originally (in the 1930s).

      I think the beneficiary advocacy event by Auckland Action Against poverty indicates the kind of active and creative ways to engage the disenfranchised.

  5. just saying 5

    I wasn’t meaning to criticise your description, Karol. I’m sure your judgement is astute.

  6. Leopold the Viper 6

    Not knowing anything about Auckland let alone Waitakere, what is the Wha Room at the Hub? The poor can be more easily intimidated from attending if the venue is an overtly middleclass one , set up miles from where they live, is in the richer area of of Waitakere, thus entailing a waste of petrol to get there,, and do the poor really want to waste their scanty leisure listening to suits pontificate, with no obvious action at the end of it? I speak as one who has done a fair share of attending such meetings. And as I have said, have never been to Waitakere, so I could be wrong

    • karol 6.1

      It’s a fairly unimposing hall, with the entrance open to the street.

      It’s not too far from Henderson and amongst a pretty diverse community. Maybe slightly off the main transport lines, but not very far.

    • karol 6.2

      Late Last night, I realised I hadn’t paid enough attention at the meeting to something that is pretty crucial to reaching out to more low income people. The meeting organisers asked for a show of hands on how people found out about the meeting. My recollection was that most of the options were electronic sources: email, Facebook, etc.

      I don’t recall being asked about learning of the meeting from flyers etc. (The meeting organisers were probably recording the results.)

      Anyway, most people seem to have learned about the meeting through emails and facebook, as I recall. This would only be tapping into the existing Green Party networks.

      Reaching more low income (non)voters might require more footwork and tapping in to more offline networks.

      • BM 6.2.1

        Reaching more low income (non)voters might require more footwork and tapping in to more offline networks.

        Don’t be ridiculous, that would actually involve meeting and talking to poor people.
        You might find they’re not all all interested in what you propose which would rather ruin your buzz.

  7. Raymond a Francis 7

    Well reported Karol with some ideas that make sense and should give positive results

    Maybe a capitals gain tax on ALL capital gains might be the way to get on top of the housing for gain
    Not necessary a level tax, lower for people trying to climb the housing ladder but higher for those in the game for profit with more than one house available for their use including those they have an interest in to gather in those with Trusts

    • KJT 7.1

      I’ve always said we should have a CGT on housing, starting at zero for houses in, say, the lowest percentile. I.E. Under 250k at the moment. Rising to maximum in houses over 500k.

      To get those who are speculating, If someone has say two 250k houses then they should be taxed as if it was one 500k house.

      Exempting the family home, as the Greens propose, is too hard to police and implement.
      I can see too many million dollar family homes suddenly appearing, owned by teenage, and young adult, children of millionaires.

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