Too many Kiwis left behind
it is just one disturbing symptom of a chronic, massive, long-term failure of the market, successive governments and their agencies to address a growing imbalance.
Call it the widening gulf between the haves and the havenots, or maybe the growing inequality in wealth and income. Whatever you call it, this won’t be solved – alleviated possibly, but certainly not solved – by a programme to build more houses. It won’t be solved in one parliamentary cycle.
The numbers are disturbing, but sadly, for the most part, not surprising: They highlight that there is a shortage. We knew that. It is significant. Again, this is something a number of agencies and commentators – including authors of this report – have been telling us for quite a while.
What is possibly more interesting and troubling is the number of Kiwis for whom the dream of home ownership has been downsized to the costly, dreary reality of renting. And what a cost they are bearing.
Over the past decade close to three-quarters of ‘‘new households formed’’ have been in a rental home.
New Housing Minister Phil Twyford can tut-tut all he wants and point to the previous government in search of blame, but this has been a trend decades in the making, involving politicians of all hues.
In 1986, 26 per cent of children under the age of 15 lived in a rented home; over the past 30 years that has risen to 43 per cent and shows no sign of stopping. In 1991, 59 per cent of Maori were owneroccupiers; in 2013 it was just 23 per cent.
The body blows don’t stop there for renters. Shut out of the property market by skyrocketing housing prices, those renting are often dealt another financial hardship by their landlord: of households paying more than 40 per cent of their income in housing, about 65 per cent are tenants. And to top things off, those rent rises have far outstripped wage increases.
Other statistics are against them: rental properties are more likely to be ‘‘poorly maintained’’ than owner-occupied properties, and those living in the former are more likely to be admitted to hospital and die young.
The stocktake paints a sorry picture of a growing Kiwi subclass: a large body of people left behind by the economic reforms of the past 30 years and the harsh reality of an unaffordable present and future. Their best hope is not home ownership but a safe, warm, reasonably priced rental that allows them to keep their family fed, safe and healthy.
For so many that remains a forlorn hope. A pipe-dream.
That is not a crisis, it’s a tragedy.