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Comrade Chris wants to solve Aotearoa’s housing crisis

Written By: - Date published: 9:05 am, September 28th, 2022 - 64 comments
Categories: Carmel Sepuloni, chris bishop, housing, national, national/act government, same old national, Social issues - Tags:

Something unusual has happened.  Chris Bishop, or as we should now call him Comrade Chris, has come out fully in favour of a vast expansion of the provision of social housing for kiwis.

According to Comrade Chris it is a moral disgrace that people are staying longer and longer in motels.

From Jane Patterson at Radio New Zealand:

Emergency housing was put in place by National to tackle the homeless crisis; its use skyrocketed during the pandemic and has now become a long-term option for many.

The average stay in 2018 was three weeks, but that’s now blown out to more than 20 weeks, based on information provided to National housing spokesperson Chris Bishop.

He described the current state of emergency housing as “a total social and moral disaster for New Zealand”; he had “real concerns” about the safety of some residents, both from what people living there tell him and from media reports.

“The simple reality is we do not want children growing up living in motels,” Bishop said. “We are now caught in the situation where there are children being born in emergency housing; some young kids out there who have no no other life other than living in a motel room. That is an appalling state of affairs.”

I could not agree more with him more.  It is good that homeless people have somewhere to stay but this should only be a short term interim arrangement.  While we no longer see the huge numbers of people living in cars that we did six years ago there is still a housing crisis.

But Bishop’s comments really jar.  As said by Carmel Sepuloni the government is still working to reverse the housing deficit created by the previous National government. Bishop’s criticisms were “incredibly disingenuous” and showed a “shocking level of hypocrisy”.

It is not as if National left the country a deficit of 70,000 houses which has now been reduced to 10,000, or that there were huge numbers of working families sleeping in their cars.  Or who can forget the Methamphetamine hysteria that gripped Housing Corp and caused huge misery to many innocent people?  Or the great sell off of Housing Corporation units or that National kneecapped Housing Corp by requiring it to pay the Crown a dividend?

Comrade Chris’s acceptance of the importance of good quality housing is welcome.  But I will not accept that it is heart felt until he apologises for the worst excesses of the last National Government and how it’s disastrous handling of housing created a crisis.

64 comments on “Comrade Chris wants to solve Aotearoa’s housing crisis ”

  1. Anker 1
    • Shouldn’t we just be pleased thatBishop is saying this (and will hopefully follow through if National form the next Govt)?

    afterall if we really want to see decent housing for the poor we should be celebrating that this is what National are are saying

    • Shanreagh 1.1

      Of course we should if that was all that there was to it.

      But no.

      Wait for the announcement that a govt dept doing good work in the community will be privatised as there is a buck to be made, or that wholesale slashing of govt depts will resume and continue until those who are left work 10-12 hour days or stuff does not get done.

      Or that hospital funding will be diverted to the private sector.

      If the Nats really meant it perhaps they would have the courage of their convictions and offer to be part of a cross party commission to work on this type of thing instead of making it a cheap election issue. Labour etc too…..also climate change.

    • weka 1.2

      that's not what National are saying though Anker.

      • Anker 1.2.1

        I had a brief look for National's housing policy and couldn't find anything recent.

        What do you think/know National are saying they are going to do about housing?

        Bishop obviously thinks kids and the vulnerable in motels is bad news.

        I doubt he will apologize for National's previous failing re housing. He's in opposition. The job is to attack Labour and say what they will do.

        • weka

          What do you think/know National are saying they are going to do about housing?

          I doubt they're going to do anything useful. Their immigration policy was a major contributor, they had a policy of selling off state houses, housing as investment is a value for them, landlord class etc. National don't care about housing for the poor.

          Bishop obviously thinks kids and the vulnerable in motels is bad news.

          Sure, most people do. He's got a good opportunity to slam Labour. It's puff though without solutions of their own.

          I doubt he will apologize for National's previous failing re housing. He's in opposition. The job is to attack Labour and say what they will do.

          That's what we think their jobs is. I think they think their job is to gain power.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 1.3

      Took them a while, but Gnat words can't be trusted, and, for me, trust is what it’s about.

      National housing spokesperson Jacqui Dean falsely claims they built 30,000 state homes when last in power
      In fact, the state housing stock fell by 2000 between 2009 and 2017.

      Bishop’s baby now; Dean's shifted to Conservation (presumably not of state houses).


      KO stock 30/9/2015 67,198

      KO stock 30/9/2017 63,209

      KO stock 31/3/2022 68,765

      Not enough of an increase after 5 years moving in a better direction.

      I trust that the Gnats prefer self-serving tax cuts – whether that’s unfair, time may tell.

    • Mark 1.4

      National created this issue by selling off state houses using a fake meth scam to do it. Bishop was part of that govt.
      Proves just how slippery these politicians are, simply cant trust anything they say.

      • tc 1.4.1

        Chris bishop would struggle to lie straight in bed.

        Being an active member of keys cabal at the time he's about as genuine as a chocolate teapot.

  2. Maurice 2

    … there's money to be made somewhere in materials supply and contract building!

  3. tsmithfield 3

    Maybe National could get Labour's promised 100k kiwibuild houses back on track?

    • lprent 3.1

      It wasn't noticeable from the end of 2012 when they realised there was a problem (and threw Nick Smith at the problem), and when they got the boot towards the end of 2017.

      It really didn't seem to be a problem for the Nats then. I don't think that it will be now.

      The last National led governments sold state housing and built less than the number required to replace it. They made no effort to retain construction workers or construction companies during the GFC. Kept lauding and encouraging (via tax cuts for the already affluent and increasing immigration) the increased property values caused by a shortage of housing.

      The reserve bank had a much larger effect on building as they independently dropped mortgage rates via the OCR while trying to keep price inflation up. By 2017, most of the local inflation was directly due to the ever increasing cost of accommodation. And artificial shortage that they caused by their polices at the GFC..

  4. Peter 4

    MAD magazine years ago used to have cartoons of people saying things, in speech balloons, and off to the side in thought bubbles what they were really thinking as they made the comments.

    I picture Carmel Sepuloni's speech balloon with "Bishop’s criticisms are incredibly disingenuous and show a shocking level of hypocrisy,” and wonder about her thought bubbles. I don't know her and what she's like, but in her situation my bubbles would include things like, "Fuck off Noddy."

    • tc 4.1

      Carmel should be climbing into his disingenuous comments but not their style.

      A very winnable election the way these govt ministers allow the BS to linger without challenges, hope 2023 is different.

  5. weka 5

    As an aside, can someone please explain why the length of time has increased despite lowering of immigration and working visa tourists for the last 2 1/2 years? Not as a gotcha argument, I'd really like to understand what has happened here.

      • weka 5.1.1

        what's the connection?

        • Incognito

          IDK, I saw your singular comment in the back-end without any further context and decided to give it a shot. If it’s not what you’re after then simply ignore it.

        • lprent

          Immigration have a IT system that sucks.

          During the pandemic, a lot of staff quit or found alternate jobs. Their overall staff levels dropped by more than a quarter at early this year (and apparently by more than a third during the pandemic). For a starter most of them had their job roles changed as they moved from managing massive tourism and influx of low pay workers to managing people coming through MIQ.

          Most of the people who would have left would have been their more skilled staff at handling bulk immigration because those are who leave when their work disappears.

          They are currently competing for competent staff in an environment of high employment. Training new staff to be vaguely competent is a staff intensive business. Onboarding and ongoing training usually chews up about 5-8% of an organisations staff capacity. depending on staff turnover. With rapid increase and a constrained employment market it more likely to be getting close to 20% (hiring less competent for the same budget constrained money and having to train more).

          Plus there are a lot of changes coming through in immigration because there is a long overdue reset of immigration policies.

          Also of course immigration has been chronically under-funded (ie their IT sucks more than 20 years after it was realised that it sucked). They spent the whole of the Nat government period under a sinking budget relative to costs.

          Organisations take quite a while to scale up if they do something complicated. Immigration for the last two decades has been scaling down while demand has been increasing. Instead of dealing with it, governments have (until 2018) pushed the organisation into fire-fighting mode and a ridiculous policy of allowing what was effectively no real constraints in areas like piss-poor education immigration by-passes.

          But since 2017, the number of staff in INZ has massively increased to try to deal with the previous deficit by a do-nothing government. But they still haven't managed to upgrade their IT much. So they're throwing bodies at the problem because people are more flexible than code.

          The immigration job got more complex because of the pandemic at the same time, and then there are all of those new staff to train in how to begin the job and how to be more adaptive in a changing environment..

          It isn't a simple task … Personally I'd just cut back the workload until INZ have fixed their organisational issues, updated their IT, and stabilised their new policies. But instead we're more likely to see sob-stories from employers, our more self-entitled residents citizens, and potential migrants.

    • Poission 5.2

      There are a number of issues,all cumulative that have forced the housing problem including poorly thought out policy.

      1) NZ population since labour has been elected has risen by 260k at 2.76 per household that leaves a increased housing need of 93k units.

      2) Changes to tenancy legislation such as minimum standards,removed available inventory (some being demolished for infill housing,to be owner occupier or rented at higher yield)

      3) Increased infill developments have seen a decrease in the consent/ compliance outcome ( netting less then the total build say 20k unit consents less 10k existing unit).

      4) Changes to emergency housing requirements (from the covid response) has seen increased internal migration from semi rural,to cities with increased usage by younger demographics.

      5) Longer build times with more complex builds has constrained inventory expansion along with covid delay,and price inflation ( building sector 18%)

      6) Constraints on remedy for landlords with non performing tenants,has seen the nightclub remedy (where potential miscreants say with credit problems) do not get in the door.

      7) Policy change in new builds,where investors only have a 5 yr brightline test,there is a number of issues her with,some being left idle,short term rentals (air bnb) a town base for some work from home more (with a second property further out)

      Wasteful spending is also a big issue,with high cost talk fests etc,where the money (all borrowed) is spent on people to talk about homelessness, rather then a poisive outcome.

      • Ad 5.2.1

        My small additions to that good list:

        1. Availability of builders, tradespeople, and essential materials. No move by government to contest the materials duopoly, despite its own massive buying power

        2. Low wage industries like fruit picking being poorly regulated, with internal demand taking too long to lever up conditions for on-site accommodation. Recalcitrant crop farmers relying on cheap labour rather than investing in crop mechanisation

        3. Kainga Ora utopian perfectionism rather than less masterplanned volume housing. State sector overreach from a very low 2017 base

        4. The huge investment reward to shifting and then keeping your savings in rental housing, against any other asset class. Intergenerational house retention as the last vestige of security

        • Poission

          Yep,2 and 3 would be drivers.With 2 the problems come with contract suppliers of labour,or FBT with farm supplied accommodation.

          3 being driven to under performance inertia.There should also have been better enhanced maintenance of their inventory,such as retrofitting for enhanced energy efficiency .

          • Descendant Of Smith

            Add to that National took an approach in both health and housing by removing people who they felt didn't stand a shitshow of getting an operation / house by booting them off the waiting lists.

            This meant waiting lists severely underestimated demand. Logically also the more houses you bulldozed or sold the less there were available the less likely you were to stay on the waiting list. It was a self perpetuating right-wing wet dream – the fewer the houses the shorter the wait list.

            • Descendant Of Smith

              Bill English was going to solve the housing crisis in 10 years.


              Q. What are you going to do with the proceeds from the sale of state houses?

              English: Haven't decided. I mean, if we want less stock, there's not much point in rebuilding stock with it. So it might go into other forms of housing support or whatever. Some of it could go into the Consolidated Account. We haven't made a decision about that. Buit we are moving away from the model of being obliged to maintain the number of state houses, because that question is premised on the idea that we must have 60,000 houses. No we mustn't, actually. We must do something about the 6000 people in the queue [the waiting list of 5599 people as at 30 Sept 2014]. That's what we must do, and we'll deploy the proceeds accordingly. People are much more worried about the number of houses than the people in the queue. We are just going to keep on that debate until we change it. You should be kicking our arse over who's in the queue. Instead you guys are spending the next six months kicking our arse over how many houses we own.

            • Poission

              Like all measured systems the KPI's are structured to reflect the policy director,not the reality of the system

    • Craig H 5.3

      Net migration is slightly negative, but practically, the population just stood still rather than continuing to grow by 10s of thousands of people each year, so the downsizing of immigration just stopped making it worse. Temporary visa holders also aren't usually eligible for social housing, so have little to no impact on the waiting list.

      The basic reason for increases in time in motels is the lists continue to grow faster than new social houses are being built. One reason for that is that rents have increased faster than the accommodation supplement, so people become eligible for social housing who otherwise wouldn't. Another reason is that it is much harder to get placed straight into social housing from a difficult situation without going through emergency housing than in the past.

      One constraint on building and acquiring new social housing is that the income-related rent subsidy has to be appropriated each year in the budget, so limits how many social houses can be funded. IMO the Social Security Act needs to be amended to allow for the income-related rent subsidy to be an automatic appropriation in the same way as accommodation supplement and various benefits.

  6. Mark 6

    If National hadnt done the fake meth scam to kick people out of state houses so they could flog them off on the open market we wouldnt have this problem. Disgusting all that history has been shoved under the carpet and now the same party wants to come out looking like the hero with a solution?

    The issue of why all these people are still in emergency housing is because they are the less desireable tenants, covered in tattoos, criminal history, bad credit histories ect, These people were those in state housing that got kicked out into the private market by National!

    • Nic the NZer 6.1

      I heard plenty of complaints about excessive Rental and Housing costs well before Key was elected. This was well before knowing anything about contract Meth testing labs.

      So I don't think the entire problem was developed under Keys term.

      Look at the RBNZ household debt ratios to understand the time span of economic history across which the NZ housing bubble has developed.

      As the (automatic) improvement in non-govt savings ratios under the wage subsidy showed, the savings are directly inverse to the govt deficit. Under Cullen increasing housing debt was paying for the govt surplus. When that ended then Keys govt was desperately trying to get back to surplus by liquidating housing stock (and pushing those costs off the govt books). Obviously Cullens choice is less regressive but still has the same rationale and issues underlying it.

      The issue being that there is a moral imperative for the govt to run a surplus.

      This is the exact equivalent of saying the non-govt should not have savings (even for retirement), BTW. Especially so in a country which often runs a trade deficit.

      • Blazer 6.1.1

        'The issue being that there is a moral imperative for the govt to run a surplus'

        As the U.S has not had one for circa 40 odd years…does it say anything about American…morals?

        • Nic the NZer


          • Blazer


            • Nic the NZer

              Your asking if its possible to make moral judgements directly from a balance sheet?

              Laughably, you also like to style yourself a critic of Capitalism.

              • Blazer

                Your comment,not mine…'The issue being that there is a moral imperative for the govt to run a surplus.'wink

                • Nic the NZer

                  Yes, I came to that sentence later and decided it was somewhat ambiguous. But in context it should be obvious to anyone able to pass 5th form english, that I meant a 'supposed moral imperative'. But anyway, thanks for the pedantry pointing out the ambiguity.

                  • Blazer

                    Hilarious.cheeky'should have been obvious'….learn to say what you mean!

                    5th form English too much for you..was..it.

                    • Nic the NZer

                      Usually I assume an above 5th form level of english comprehension to readers here. But I can keep this in mind for other threads involving you in future.

                      In answer to your question, again, no.

  7. kat 7

    Can someone please explain in plain language why Labour continues to avoid reinstating a govt backed 21st century Ministry of Works. Before anyone starts scoffing, remember this country once had a nation wide construction system that built, railways bridges and dams, even with a wee bit of shovel leaning.


    Then of course there were 'houses' built.


    • Ad 7.1

      It's in the depth of the state rollback in the 1990s stripping the capacity of the state to execute, and the inertia to return.

      There is ideological inertia in that there's not been an upswell in an alternative to New Public Management theory. So much continues to be contracted out, and any residual political role highly constrained by independent Boards.

      Even when given the opportunity to do so, public entities such as Auckland Council fail to give full-throated development power to Panuku.

      What follows from that is legislated structural inertia. Very little of the core Acts that set corporatisation up have been much altered. The State Sector Act 1989, Public Finance Act 1986, State Owned Enterprises Act 1986, and the Fiscal Responsibility Act 1994 are solid as ever. The State Sector Act has had useful alterations recently.

      That multi-decade structural inertia is locked in. Check out how Kiwibank – set up to contest banks that used to be owned by the NZ public – has been constrained to a tiny marketplace share. The main place state-directed capacity has been reversed somewhat is Kainga Ora, but with limited and still heavily corporatised success and only over the last term.

      So what remains is full public corporatisation embedded in the following: road transport, public transport, rail transport, electricity generation and distribution, public health, banking, social housing, bunches more, and shortly to include water and wastewater.

      Here's an example: how hard would it be now for Wellington City Council to regain full control of Wellington Airport? Answer: very very hard.

      The key historians on this are Kelsey's Rolling Back The State, Easton's The Commercialisation of New Zealand, and Jesson's Behind the Mirror Glass.

      That old command-and-control state from the 1940s is never coming back.

      • Blazer 7.1.1

        May I suggest another…

        • Ad

          I'm not sure there's much useful argument for overweening state control of production in there.

          For all its massive state interventions into specific businesses, New Zealand remains a low-productivity, low-savings, low-skill, low wage economy just as it did when 200 years ago New Zealand had its first labour strike in 1821.

          • Blazer

            Shelter is a basic need for survival.

            De regulation of the NZ banking system has made overseas banks billions.

            Someone described the NZ economy as 'housing investment..with bits tacked on.

            The idea that private investment is more efficient, does not withstand scrutiny,just like 'tricledown' theory is pure b/s.

            If not surely this would NOT be the case-'New Zealand remains a low-productivity, low-savings, low-skill, low wage economy just as it did when 200 years ago New Zealand had its first labour strike in 1821.'

            Clearly Rogernomics,Thatcherism,Reaganism….hasn't translated into real long term benefits for…NZ.

  8. Kat 8

    That old command-and-control state from the 1940s is never coming back….

    Well my understanding of state command and control involves a govt issuing a command, which sets a standard and then outcomes are controlled by overseeing and compliance to that standard. If that is the desired outcome for various govt decrees in this century, say for example in response to environment and climate change, then why not for building state houses.

    Where there is a will there is a way…….to overcome the inertia….surely

    • Ad 8.1

      The core state response – agreed to by all parties – is to enable a market to be operated efficiently, not inventing some giant state entity commanding that the climate be changed back.

      Go for it.

      • weka 8.1.1

        which agreement are you referring to?

      • Kat 8.1.2

        Lets see how the recent Health reforms go, not that these reforms result in a giant state entity, more a realisation that having 20 plus independent DHB's was inefficient and did not provide timely satisfactory health care for everyone.

        • Ad

          Until one points out that such recentralisation isn't undoing contractual corporatisation. On the contrary it is devolving even more public health to corporations and mega-trusts.

          There's no doubt that in New Zealand the state is back, big time.

          That can't be confused with any increase in democratic accountability.

          • Kat

            If I read you correctly you are saying that even with the "state back big time" with some noted recentralisation there is no visible undoing of the reforms that decoupled and decentralised the departmental structure of the State in the 80's and 90's.

            I would agree with other comments above that those 80's/90's state sector reforms were no more than Thatcher/Reagan neoliberal ideology that spawned the mythical mantra that govt should not be involved in business.

            Any turning back from those reforms, in my view, would have to be indicative of some increase in democratic accountability.

  9. Kat 9

    Enabled…. operating efficiently…….frown

  10. Stuart Munro 10

    I wonder if this is some kind of confession from Chris. Perhaps most of his stays in motels involved moral disgraces.

    I would of course welcome real action from National, or a functioning bipartisan consensus on housing. But I recall that when John Key wanted to be elected, he too made promises about housing, which he not only broke, but went further, selling off state and social housing and sabotaging the maintenance and construction of more. Chris begins with a credibility gap, and only a thin tissue of fabrications to cover it.

  11. Mike the Lefty 11

    With all the tax cuts they are promising how can National pay for it all?

    • tc 11.1

      With cuts to health, education, welfare etc culture wars for distraction and selling off more assets.

      Look at their track record and remember it's 2022 not 1982 with puppets like ufindell now filling seats.

  12. SPC 12

    There is only one quick way to get people out of motels – buy up houses and place people in them at income related rent.

    And the best ones are those with space for factory built granny flats. These can easily be later on-sold for that niche market (inter-generational families). Smartly done, a nice earner.

    • Descendant Of Smith 12.1

      Purchase the three bedroom houses that old people are living in by themselves by swapping them for a brand new 2 bedroom unit. Brand new smaller versus old but larger prices are often remarkably similar in many towns.

      Build houses and sell only the house retaining the land in state hands for perpetuity with no or token leases. Treat land owned by the state as valueless by placing it in perpetual state ownership never to be sold.

      • SPC 12.1.1

        The market is doing one already, it would take an incentive to increase the speed of that process.

        Yes selling only the house would make it more affordable/increase the number of homeowners (provide a semblance of permanence). But depending on the future price escalation of private land, would leave them in the orbit of leasehold property only.

        One could also buy private homes and then sell the house, with a lease rental on the land (which would boost the leasehold land market). Governments could later buy the house and relocate the post family owners in town housing and use the land they own for urban intensification.

  13. Jenny are we there yet 13

    Social housing is not state housing.
    Social housing is private charities housing subsidised by the state.
    Social housing is a neo-liberal theory that state subsidised private housing providers can do housing better than the state.
    A lot of state housing stock has been handed over to private charities to run as they see fit. Some private charities have onsold these houses to fund their other charity work.
    Personally I think the whole social housing concept is bonkers.

    • SPC 13.1

      Sure it is a bit like their charter schools – by non profit and for profit groups.

      Social housing has a place. Womens refuges, homeless shelters, emergency housing, transition housing – whether addiction or post prison/parole and old age.

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