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Postcard from a 21st century renter

Written By: - Date published: 1:19 pm, December 3rd, 2012 - 16 comments
Categories: greens, history, housing, Left, mana, poverty - Tags:

Dear Jack,

It’s been almost a century since your major contribution to NZ well-being, and many still see you as an inspiration for a left wing vision of community and solidarity. Unfortunately, we are having to fight the same old battles once more.  The struggling poor are still being demonised and scapegoated, and we need more state housing. Jack, in the name of your selfless, visionary and productive generation, some are misappropriating, misnaming and distorting your vision into a platform for the children of middle-class property owners. The bankster-driven, housing market is a jealous god, and will not tolerate the active promotion of affordable rents, and safe and secure housing for the children of the poor.  Fortunately there are those, like you, who are still willing to make a stand for a more fair, equal and community-based NZ.


16 comments on “Postcard from a 21st century renter”

  1. Phaedrus 1

    Jack wasn’t well treated by the party then and I suspect that the same would apply if he was a member of the party today. Wasted talent.

  2. Peter 2

    Well, no one can doubt John A. Lee’s intention on housing, and also on economics (he and Kirk were the Labour politicians who delved the deepest into social credit theory), there’s a bit of revisionist history going on here.

    People love a martyr, and he was able to create himself into one, but don’t forget that this was the man who publicly and viciously attacked NZ’s most loved Prime Minister (by writing Psychopathology in Politics), whilst he was dying of cancer. Savage literally gave his life for social security, delaying treatment so he could fight the 1938 election.

    • karol 2.1

      There’s nothing revisitionist about crediting Lee with being the main driver of state housing – the topic of my post.  What is revisionist, is trying to pass off KiwiBuild, which focuses on the private market, as being a similar move to what Lee and his fellow Labour MPs did back then.

      • AsleepWhileWalking 2.1.1

        Absolutely. There isn’t even a strategy to stop wealthy from (predictably) taking advantage of the policy and no clear method, or for that matter intention to target assistance to those most in need – the people who currently don’t own housing, and have legit reasons why they can’t afford out of control market rates.

        Without more targeted assistance Labour could save a lot of time and money by encouraging 100 year mortgages which would technically make all housing “affordable” again.

        • QoT

          As I said in a post on the topic, the problem isn’t just the lack of strategy to stop the wealthy taking advantage – it’s the deliberate choice not to have such a strategy at all, and the deliberate effort made to justify not cutting out the wealthy.

          • karol

            When I read various articles for this post, I was reminded that so many of the Labour Government of the 30s had come from working class backgrounds:

            In the early 1930s, New Zealand was in the grip of the Depression. There was mass unemployment, and the government had no idea what to do about it….

            Labour’s senior members had been miners, labourers and union activists. Although very few of them had gone beyond primary school, they had enough common sense to see that “the methods of sound finance” were major causes of New Zealand’s desperate economic situation….

            Most of the members of that government were ordinary working-class blokes who had never been beyond primary school, but thanks to them, we achieved prosperity in a remarkably short time because we used our own resources – and Kiwi common sense.

            Now most (all?) of the Labour MPs are university educated and have a comfortable lifestyle.  It’s no wonder they don’t have the same passion and commitment to provide for low income people, and have produced a housing policy from a middle-class perspective.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Now most (all?) of the Labour MPs are university educated and have a comfortable lifestyle.

              And that really is a problem – especially in economics where everything that’s taught is wrong.

            • Chalupa Batman

              I believe I’ve pointed this out to be one of Labours problems in the past…

  3. just saying 3

    Thank you Karol. Well said.

  4. Bill 4

    Future proofed housing is what’s needed. The days of the self contained ‘nuclear family’ housing unit need to be consigned to history. Labour could have made a start on that even though they are punting to the middle classes. But, of course, they haven’t.

    • karol 4.1

      Very good suggestions, Bill.  Yes, while the first state housing programme provides a bit of a guideline, it needs to be re-thought for the 21st century.  The original state housing were on little sections and quite suburban looking, and designed for nuclear families.

  5. bad12 5

    A round of applause for this post, Labour’s KiwiBuild is simply the Socialism of, by, and, for the middle class,

    The same middle class which created the issue of ‘affordability’ in the first place by piling into home ownership as a rental investment en masse has not only managed to trap the working poor as their captive tenant base as State housing became mainly the preserve of the ‘newer’ creation ‘the beneficiary class’ also managed to ensure their own children would be left out of home ownership by house prices being forced higher,

    The only (slightly) credible defense i have so far seen put forward from the pro faction for KiwiBuild is that ‘in time’ the middle class taking advantage of KiwiBuild will take pressure off of the rental market and rents for the working poor might ease,

    Pink fucking pigs might grow avionic protuberances and fucking fly ‘in time’ as well in the ‘time’ it will take for yet more of the Neo-liberal trickle down bullshit theory to manifest itself in the pockets of the working poor as a + in income saved from being forced to service some-one else’s mortgage,

    Given ‘time’ those from the middle class empowered by Labour’s KiwiBuild plan will accrue enough equity in such property as to allow them to use this to re-mortgage into a second and third property thus following their parents into the Landlord class…

  6. Descendant Of Smith 6

    With an older population I would have thought also that bulldozing some of the older rental stock close town, building retirement housing and allowing swaps of a 3 or 4 bedroom houses in the suburbs for such retirement housing would make some sense.

    Freeing up land further out of anywhere brings it’s own transport difficulties and moving older people close to amenities where they have easy access to public transport and access to supermarkets, movie theatres, shops, etc makes much more sense to me.

    There’s little difference in most provincial centres between an older 3 to 4 bedroom house with a section and a new low maintenance unit for pricing and a voluntary one for one swap would free up larger homes and provide a bit of renewal for the next 20 years or so for the fringe 1930’s to 1960’s homes that are mainly deteriorating rentals these days.

    A good design of several units u-shaped around a central garden area seems to me to be a viable option.

    The freed up homes could become the state rentals or rent-to-buy from the state options and the state (followed by councils) could also have first right of purchase for the units which then then be rented out to older people as the original swap owners die off.

  7. Chalupa Batman 7

    Gotta say Children of the Poor was a pretty good book

  8. Imagine Labour thinking like Karl Marx Hof meets Hundertwasser?

  9. millsy 9

    From what I understand, John A Lee slowly moved to the right during his latter years, becoming a confidant of Robert Muldoon, and supporting the Vietnam War. He also counted the bible bashing mayor of Mt Roskill, Keith Hay (who pioneered outsourcing of council services) in his colleaugues, having formed the Democratic Labour Party with him, along with Roger Douglas’ father. He died in 1982, just as the fish and chip brigade was about move to depose Bill Rowling and impose their monetarist theories on an unwitting Labour party. It is possible he would have been supportive of them had he still lived.

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