The Housing Crisis & The Growing Divide

We have a housing crisis, it’s more problematic than you might think, and unless we have the maturity to make some sacrifices today we are sacrificing our future generations.

A Housing Crisis

The average house price in Aotearoa is more than $900,000, we have a shortfall of more than 100,000 dwellings, all urban housing markets are considered severely unaffordable by international standards, 500,000 Kiwis are in overcrowded housing situations, 300,000 households are on accommodation supplements, Māori home ownership sits at just over 30%, less than 50% of people in our largest city (Auckland) own their own homes, and 1 in 100 people — that’s 50,000 people — are living in ‘severe housing deprivation’ (sleeping on the streets or in cars, in emergency housing, temporarily staying at a relatives or friends, etc).

Our housing situation is driving inequality and it’s dangerous. The Fall of Rome, the French Revolution, the Arab Spring and Brexit, were all driven in part by inequality. Inequality is a key contributor to crime, violence, abuse in its many forms, and mental illness. It destroys social cohesion by eroding the bonds that make us feel like we’re all in the same boat.  

As it stands, the current housing system is growing the divide, creating conditions where those who own homes are witnessing their wealth grow — without having to exert any effort, and in many cases faster than their incomes ever will — while those who do not, watch the prospect of obtaining one become more and more prohibitive. Some people will choose to take on large and unprecedented sums of debt; many more will acknowledge that homeownership is out of their reach. At the same time, a growing number of hard-working people in this country are in unsuitable living situations, staying in cars, sheds, garages and overcrowded houses. 

Every week an article is written examining the various drivers of expensive housing in New Zealand: lack of supply, easy access to finance, low interest rates, investors, speculators, red tape, restrictive building codes and council rules, material costs and so on. And every other week an article is written with solutions to these issues: a tax, a change in regulation or policy, a homeownership scheme or a building programme. 

Why is it that despite our best efforts — that is, knowing the problems, having the technical expertise needed to address them, and making efforts to do so — the trajectory for quality affordable housing is only getting worse? Could it be that we are not addressing the heart of the problem? 

I believe it is timely to reexamine and update our values and beliefs that lie at the heart of both the issues and the solutions to our housing crisis. 

We are all in the same boat

We do not get to choose the circumstances into which we are born. We don’t choose our race, our gender or our economic position, and yet these circumstances have far reaching implications on our lives. We need to design our housing system so that every member of society, no matter who they are or where they are born, has equitable access to good quality affordable housing, along with fundamentals such as quality education, healthcare, and food, in order to lay the foundations for a strong future society. Our current system perpetuates unaffordable housing as the status quo, and isn’t good for the millions of individuals who are not in homes which they own or have unprecedented amounts of debt in their names.

We have to be fair

An expensive house or no house isn’t much of a choice. Why should future homebuyers, who are entitled to the basic human right of adequate shelter, be forced to pay ever higher prices for property that hasn’t necessarily had any real value (such as habitable space) added to it? Is it fair that those who have been on the receiving end of property sales have accumulated large sums of money at the expense of buyers? If large sums of money have found their way into the hands of current and previous property owners without any real value being added, wouldn’t it be only fair to look at how that money could be redirected and redistributed towards things that add real value to our society? Given our current state of crisis, we could begin by looking at how such money could be directed towards solutions to the housing crisis.

No pain, no gain

It is not possible for the average house to be both unaffordable and affordable at the same time. In order to move towards affordability, we’re going to have to give up our expensive housing. This will mean a sacrifice for some individuals who, relatively speaking, have more than others. 

It is not easy to give up something that we enjoy, even when we know the outcome of giving it up is better for us. Whether it’s giving up or reducing smoking, alcohol, or sugary drinks for a healthier lifestyle, or forgoing a social outing or sports activity to spend more time with the kids, all of these require some sort of sacrifice on one level in order to achieve a greater objective. The same is true when it comes to expensive housing. We will need to find and develop the strength within ourselves to overcome our self-interest for the benefit of all. 

The media

The tone of the conversation about housing and especially housing as ‘an investment’ needs to change, and our media industry needs to lead this charge. We need to critically examine whether it’s appropriate to talk about rising house prices as if it’s a good thing, when in reality, rising house prices also plays out as rising inequality, crime, mental illness and violence. Newspaper stories with headlines “Major urban centres continue to show strong gains” and “Cheaper suburbs leap ahead” could accurately be rewritten to headline “Major urban centres witness inequality and child poverty grow” and “Rents increase for already struggling families in cheaper suburbs”. Just substitute any reference to ‘rising house prices’ with ‘rising inequality’ and you have a fuller picture of what is going on.

Some hard choices 

We have some choices to make. We can allow our house prices to rise. We can watch as our homeless population grows, more people sleep in cars, and the prospect of home ownership slip away from more Maori and Pasifika families. We can build taller fences and put up barbed wire to keep thieves out as we further isolate ourselves from ‘the other’ — people in different socio-economic circles than us. We can witness our society become more and more divided. 

Or we can design our housing system to ensure that everyone, no matter who they are, has access to quality affordable homes, homes that they can own should they wish. We can make the price of property commensurate with the real value of property. We can stop concentrating wealth via property into the hands of a minority at the expense of the majority, and we can think about how wealth that has been obtained without creating any real value can be redistributed in a sensible fashion. 

Redesigning the housing system to be more fair and equitable means we are going to have to make some changes in our thoughts, attitudes, policies and practices. We are going to have to give up a system that is helping an increasingly small segment of society get ahead economically for one that is more holistic and considers the wellbeing of all over the wellbeing of only some. It may be hard in the short term but a more equitable society, a society where we all feel more connected and safer, one in which all human potential is given the chance to develop, is surely a society that we’d rather live in. 

Be sure however, that if we fail to make the necessary sacrifices soon, it is our future generations that we are sacrificing.

Story by Zane Sabour
Image Sarah Cleave

Planning for Housing

Why isn’t housing part of the Long Term Plan?

Tūranganui-a-kiwa has a housing crisis. The problem may be nation-wide, but it is amplified here. House prices locally have gone up faster in this latest boom than almost any other part of the country. There is basically nothing to rent. And of the one or two properties that might be available at any given moment on TradeMe, they are more than a rip off; the prices are unconscionable.

Sure, if you’re on the right side of the divide there’s no problem. You’ve just been given tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, without having to lift a finger. 

But if you’re on the wrong side of the divide, the prospect of owning a house just vanished. You might be sleeping at your relative’s house, staying in overcrowded accommodation, or have flatmates you don’t want. If you’re lucky enough to have a rental, your rental payments are almost certainly higher than your landlord’s mortgage repayments; so to top it all off, your landlord is almost effortlessly accumulating wealth while you may be working yourself into the ground and unable to even save for a deposit.

“If something about this story feels wrong, that’s because it is wrong”

We need to change it, but change isn’t going to happen by itself and in order for it to be effective it must be approached in a systematic way.

Housing Article image
Who has said Goodbye to their dreams of ever owning a home lately? How many have found themselves without a place to call home?

That is why we need to make sure that housing is part of our Long Term Plan in Tūranganui-a-kiwa.

So why isn’t housing in the Long Term Plan? I honestly don’t know. I’ve asked, but haven’t received a satisfactory answer. Maybe the Council isn’t aware that they can make a difference? Maybe it just seemed too hard? Maybe it’s not a top priority? Maybe it’s not clear how to fix the problem? Maybe the infrastructure costs to facilitate more housing seem too high? Maybe the Council feels that it’s the Central Government’s responsibility to fix such things? 

It doesn’t really matter what the reason is. The reality is that there are a great number of people in Te Tairāwhiti – often people who don’t have a voice – who lack quality affordable housing, and this is a major issue affecting their lives. For many, remedying their housing situation is not an issue they can solve by themselves. For many more, the socioeconomic system they are entangled in prevents and disempowers them from doing so. 

“To be clear, I’m not just talking about people in the bottom 10%, or people who are homeless, or people who are in social housing. I’m talking about people who work full time and earn the median annual salary. I’m talking about your “average” person too”.

The housing crisis is affecting a large cross-section of our community, and it touches one of our most fundamental human rights – the right to adequate housing that ensures the wellbeing and upholds the dignity of every person.

If housing is an issue affecting so many of us in this region, surely we have to include it in our Long Term Plan. We need to look at how we can move towards quality affordable housing. To overlook it, for whatever reason, is an injustice to our community. Of course the Central Government must work on the issue at the same time, but to ignore the agency of Local Council and its responsibility to look after its community will only lead to the perpetuation of growing inequalities. For some, this road will end in hospital, having been afflicted with health issues arising from inadequate shelter; others will gravitate towards gangs as a means to try to regain control over their lives and better their personal circumstances. 

While the solution to our housing problem isn’t solely within the Council’s domain, the remedy will require action from the Central Government all the way through to the individual. There are plenty of steps our Council can take towards affordable quality housing.

As a start let’s put housing on the agenda and include it in the Long Term Plan. Then let’s also make it part of a short term plan. After that, the Council can look at its planning rules and policies, identify which ones slow down the development of housing, and eliminate them. It’s an absolute pain to develop housing, especially if you want to do anything different. What’s the problem with apartments? What’s the big deal with tiny houses? Why can’t we go ahead and convert the garage if we use professionals?

“We need to stop making it illegal to easily improve the housing situation”.

And while we are here let’s look at what sort of things will encourage more housing to be built, especially that which will increase density. And then let’s do it. We live in a country with some of the lowest density in the world; in that country, we live in a city with even lower density. Just because people aren’t used to change doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. What is worse, people sleeping in apartments or cars? Studios or emergency housing? My wife and I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment for four years, and it was great. There’s nothing wrong with a three, four, five story building with a number of dwellings (remember it’s not density that creates slums, it’s poverty. Is New York City one massive slum?) 

If infrastructure is what’s holding housing up, then fix it. Don’t tell me that some people can’t have a house because we don’t know how to fund a sewage pipe. Find a way. Crowdfund if you have to. 

Housing has a massive influence on the quality of people’s lives, and the current system is growing inequalities between those that have it and those that don’t. Within this context, Māori and Pasifika populations are almost always dealt the bad hand. The situation as it stands continues to sustain and promote inadequate housing for Māori and Pasifika and is a clear example of systemic racism that must be uprooted. 

If we are going to make a difference to our housing crisis, we have to make housing a priority. We can’t ignore it. The problem is only going to get worse if we sit on our hands. So let’s put it on the agenda, make it part of the plan, make some changes and move forward.

By Zane Sabour
Photograph Sarah Cleave | Model Alex Andrews
This story was written with the support of Gizzy Local.

Check out www.lowcosthousing.co.nz for information about Zane & his research into affordable housing in Aotearoa.

TE REO MĀORI CLASSES 2021

EIT

Certificate in Te Reo Māori [Level 2]

– Full time day class OR part time night class with wananga.  February – July. 

This course provides you with the language skills required to communicate and feel comfortable in everyday contexts and in Māori environments. 

  • Fee Free


NZ Certificate in Te Reo me Ngā Tikanga [Level 4]

Full time day class or part time night class with wananga. February – November

For those who already have a general understanding of the Māori language and want to progress further. You will cover Māori language, marae customs and practices and focus on applying te reo Māori to everyday life.

  • Fee Free

Certificate in Tikanga (Waka Ama) [Level 3]  – Wananga based, from February to July.

With a waka ama focus, you will learn about, and be immersed in waka ama. The programme covers subjects like fitness and wellbeing for all ages, for whānau, hapū, iwi and local communities as well as health and safety. You will study the history of waka ama, its national significance today.

  • Fee Free


NZ Diploma in Te Reo Māori (Immersion) [Level 5]  – Full time day class, February – November

The NZ Diploma is designed to provide intermediate skills in te reo tikanga Māori, develop academic writing and research skills, provide an option of Māturanga Māori courses as well as expand on activities that enhance teaching te reo Māori such as Māori stone tool technology, Māori performing arts, and Māori society.

Cost: Approx $5,600 for the first year.


Bachelor of Arts (Māori) [Level 5-7] – Offered as a full time day class. Part time may be considered. Three years full time study

Piki mai, kake mai rā ki Te Aho ā Māui. If you want to play a part in shaping a positive social, political and economic future for Aotearoa New Zealand, a thorough understanding of Te Reo Māori and tikanga is essential as a special taonga, to be shared with all New Zealanders. With the Bachelor of Arts (Māori) you’ll enhance your career prospects and social standing within the community, while contributing to the ongoing drive to revitalise the culture and language of indigenous New Zealand.

Cost: $700 / $1400 per course

Go here for more information on all of these classes.

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TE HA O TE REO

Te Ha O Te Reo offers 10 different packages including Pepeha for beginners – 1 hr a week via Zoom for 20 weeks, All levels are welcome, as are groups.

Riria Haturini has spent the last 35 years developing and facilitating a learning system that embraces different learning styles, abilities and goals. In Te Ha O Te Reo Riria has created a space without judgement to allow people to flourish in the Te Reo journey; here, mistakes are welcome, differences are embraced and achievements are celebrated.

Costs $35 per hr/pp for a total of $700. Sign up before February 6 for a discounted rate..

Head here for more information.

Or check out this podcast to meet Riria and hear more about her mahi.

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TE WĀNANGA O AOTEAROA COURSES

Learn to speak Māori – Te Ara Reo Māori

– From March, 2021, 38 weeks made up of 1 x 3-hour class per week, 2 x noho marae, 4 x one-day wānanga 

If you want to learn some basic Māori language, this is the perfect place to start. Whether you want to use te reo Māori at home with the kids or in the workplace, this interactive programme will have you speaking with confidence in no time.

You’ll start with how to correctly pronounce Māori words, names and place names. You will learn basic greetings and how to introduce yourself, as well as how to understand and follow tikanga (protocols). The kaiako are experienced with teaching beginners, and you’ll be with other tauira (students) who have the same aspirations to learn our indigenous language.

  • Fee Free

Te Pūtaketanga o te Reo – Full Immersion – Full time study over 40 weeks.

Want to speak te reo Māori? There’s no better way than to immerse yourself in the language. Learn in a calm and encouraging environment that also challenges you to speak and think in the reo. Our experienced and fluent kaiako understand what it takes to help you progress to a conversational ability. You’ll learn with others who want to improve their te reo Māori capability, and you’ll get more confident by the day. Kia kaha!

  • Fee Free

Te Rōnakitanga ki te Reo Kairangi – Intermediate Full Immersion [Level 5] – From March over 40 weeks.

Do you want to make a meaningful commitment to your Māori language development? Go well past the basics and focus on your grammar and conversational ability.

Start to learn about regional variations of language and how you’ll understand different dialects. Continue in our fun and inclusive learning environment, and make te reo Māori a language you can confidently function in from day to day.

  • Fees Free

Diploma in Te Aupikitanga ki te Reo Kairangi – Advanced Full Immersion – 40 weeks from March 2020.

Continue your immersion journey in te reo Māori and lead the way for your whānau, hapū and iwi. Function confidently in most situations using only te reo Māori. Learn to articulate your ideas and hold meaningful dialogues using metaphors and whakaaro Māori. Develop a translation skill set, and learn in an encouraging environment that also challenges you to speak and think in te reo.

  • Fees Free

THE VALUE IN SCARCITY

Last weekend I spent up large at Gisborne’s annual Art Mart at Marina Park.

My definition of a big spend may differ to that of some people – I’m a pretty thrifty lady (nicely evolved from the frugality/stinginess of my younger years). But in the space of Sunday morn spent amongst a sunny array of browsers and vendors alike, I managed to find a birthday gift for my sister, a Christmas present for my niece, and I added a small pile of absolute beauties to the household’s ‘present drawer’, which will see us through a good few months of kids birthday parties.

The best thing about the whole experience was how good that exchange of dollars felt every single time it passed from my wallet to the very hands of the artists, the craftspeople, the makers, who had made the pieces I was about to take home with me.

I’ve been having a few conversations around the place lately with people wanting to ‘give up Christmas’ in different ways and to varying extents, but there is a rising energy it seems, to stop mindlessly playing out on repeat, this tradition that’s become so skewed from its original self, and which does little to serve humans or the planet in its current form.

One friend was trying to find the words to pen an email to whānau asking for their help and support, “Our kids are growing up in a world full of issues from mass consumption and we are trying to show them, through our purchasing choices, that we can make a difference” she writes. “Our hope is that the kids are fufilled with the simple things in life”.

Another friend has taken to giving each of her children a sum of money, to be equally divided into three parts. One part to give, one part to spend on an artwork or an experience, and one part to spend on something that they really really want. That same friend talked about a shift to celebrating the Equinox instead of Christmas, in the hope of further distancing themselves from the consumeristic connotations of the latter.

Yesterday I reminisced with a fellow parent about our own childhood in which we placed such high value on the things that we owned and experienced – our marble collections, the second-hand bike our parents had done up for our birthday with a lick of paint and addition of some spokey dokeys, the annual trip to McDonald’s for a birthday celebration, the rarified glass of Fanta or Sprite. These days when there’s an absolute excess of everything, that sense of anything holding any particular value has certainly become a difficult concept to impart to our young’uns.

My partner and I don’t buy our kids much new stuff. It’s not to say that they – we – don’t still end up with piles of stuff though. I made a concerted (and rather short-sighted) effort to train my daughters into op shopping from a young age, and it was only when I realised that, contributing to a circular economy though I might be, it was taking away from that notion of value in scarcity just as much as buying new stuff all the time would be, and so these days op shopping too has become a once in a while kind of occasion (ahem).

It’s not that I don’t sometimes question this approach we take. When the kids are looking at us like we’re just downright mean..when the front brakes on my daughters bike that I got for $30 at a Barwicks Auction before she was even born come unclipped for the second time in the week, when I’m refusing yet again to buy something because of the way it has been packaged..it is hard to not just start feeling – downright mean. But although I cringe every time I hear myself saying ‘you’ll understand one day’ I do think that the way in which we remember ‘scarcity’ with such fond nostalgia and almost romantically, holds us to the truth of this notion.

Which delivers me back in a very circular manner to the value of the craftsperson, the local makers and marketplaces for their goods in a healthy community and creative economy. Last weekend I came away from the Art Mart with about 10 gifts (including one for myself) having put about $70 into the local economy, which I’m guessing for a lot of Warehouse customers is probably a fairly modest spend.   

My five daughter and I had had a rare kind of shopping expedition in which neither of us had a tantrum and during which we stopped and talked with friends and people we knew, makers and fellow browsers alike. My daughter got to experience this simple yet rarefied concept of buying things from the people whose hands had made the ‘stuff’. It was a warm and sunny day, the band matched the mood of the weather and we took the dog and my daughter’s bike for a run around the cycleway to finish. 

There’s plenty of opportunity for supporting our local makers and easing the environmental impact of our Christmas shopping spend this weekend, with both the whimsical Willowsong Summer Fair in the Rose Gardens and the always outstanding Upmarket in the Ballance Street Village tomorrow and the Royal Market in Matawhero on Sunday.

Other ideas for more sustainable giving can be found aplenty if you’re looking for them – vouchers for future adventures or help doing something, tickets for experiences, memberships, second-hand goods, up-cycled goods, home baking.. the list goes on. For the less time-wealthy amongst us though I highly recommend a mosey around a local makers market!

Story by Sarah Cleave.

Images X Ro Darrall. 

VIBES & TRIBES – TĀIKI E! ONE YEAR IN

Next week the Impact House, Tāiki e turns one year old. In just one year, it’s fair to say that Renay Charteris, Cain Kerehoma and their ever-growing crew have achieved their goal of kickstarting an aroha economy here in the Tairāwhiti. Their aims around creating a collaborative space for social and environmental action have drawn in a hugely diverse group of people to the premises on the corner of Treble Court.

Amongst the people using and contributing towards the space are a mushroom farmer, a death doula, a tourism operator, innovators and an artist, people in data analytics, social media, tech, the youth space, Te Reo, podcasting and permaculture. Renay reckons they’ve become a UN of sorts too “We seem to be a bit of a landing pad for new people arriving in our community, who want to get involved but don’t know how”. She says that getting them involved in projects that benefit the region is the best way to introduce people to our community, allowing them to integrate into the fabric of the community through service and giving of their time, skills and selves.

Next week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the programme that the Tāiki e! crew have planned is a beautiful fit for the mahi they do, bringing together the key focus areas that have organically bubbled up amongst their members since they started one year ago. When it comes to entrepreneurship, Cain and Renay urge people to think about how business can be used as a tool to create impact and transformational change in our communities, so that it is about more than just making a profit.

So next week the hive of activity that is Tāiki e! kicks off with an Open Day for people who want to get a sense of what goes on there and how it rolls, a Side Hustle Market, Self Care & Well-Being in Business session and a Start Up Crawl through the CBD, talking to some local business owners about their start up stories. Stuffed Up Night aims to provide a space within which to talk about failure and Fishbowl is an event to talk Food and Food Security here in Te Tairāwhiti.

As Renay says ‘Your vibe attracts your tribe’ so if this vibe sounds like a bit of you, check out Tāiki e!’s schedule of events for next week, and meet your tribe!

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