A recent OECD paper (HC3.1 Homeless Population), reports that New Zealand has one of the worst homelessness rates in the OECD, and that homelessness has increased . There are several commonly proposed solutions to the housing crisis facing us
The first solution is “let’s build lots more houses urgently.” Councils are often blamed under this solution for having obstructive consent processes or for not releasing enough land on city margins. People advocating this route were often saying, let the free market operate unrestricted and all will be solved
There are several aspects of this solution to consider
The current National Government, believing that the private sector is more efficient than the state in matching supply and demand, has sold off much of the state housing stock it inherited from government initiatives last century. We believe that the government should replenish the state house stock with a programme, which builds basic but comfortable new houses. There are many existing state houses with enormous sections, on which a new house could be built, with no need for acquiring new land
The size of houses has increased at the same time as families have got smaller. This is nonsensical, and people have come to assume that new houses should have huge living rooms and kitchens and multiple bathrooms. This is not to say that older state houses are adequate. In many case they had bedrooms smaller would be acceptable today. For the sake of the planet and to reduce the emissions generated by building large houses, we need to build smaller houses overall.
The second solution is limiting population growth and thus demand for more houses, especially from the huge immigration of recent years. which has been most felt in Auckland. Climate First’s aim for a static or not-growing population would go some way towards solving the housing problem
The third solution is making housing more efficient, by reducing the mismatch between house size and the number of residents in the houses. Older people remaining in large houses after their children have left home is the most common complaint. The Climate First Property tax would improve this situation and be a disincentive to a couple or single person living in a large and high-value house. We are aware of the hardship some older homeowners could suffer which is why the tax is being introduced gradually. This tax would be an encouragement to turn part of a large house into a flat, which would generate an income with which to pay the property tax. As an older person in this situation I became aware that it was impossible to trade down to a cheaper or smaller house in the same suburb that I had lived all my life, because all the houses were large and expensive. Worse, when old houses were demolished they were replaced by even bigger new houses because that was the way the developer could make the most profit. As well, even houses that weren’t demolished, were having extra rooms added. The Climate First party would analyse population density and optimal use of available living spaces, in order to enable the most efficient use of the existing housing stock and also to determine the nature of new houses required.
The fourth solution is intensification and infill housing. This acknowledges that housing and transport are inextricably linked. It points to councils and governments not being able to afford to supply social housing because they have to spend so much on new infrastructure in new subdivisions. Then they have to spend even more on highway infrastructure in established suburbs to cater for commuters from the new outer suburbs passing through them. Clearly housing in our suburbs has historically been too distributed and low density. Unfortunately, this government has overseen continuing disastrous urban sprawl, but attempts at intensification have only generated bitterness when multilevel housing has been forced onto the residents of single dwelling suburbs. The Christchurch rebuild has been the worst example of an outdated mindset of motorcar-based urban sprawl eliminating the possibility of reducing transport emissions in time in the future. Because of the large sections made available in subdivisions, people have built large houses which cause more ghg emissions. Of particular concern is the large area of cities devoted to roading. For starters, roads should not take up 25% of the land in a city. And much of this is taken up with parking. Suburban houses have, as a rule, plenty of off-street parking, yet extra cars fill up the streets. They also have gardens trees and lawns on their properties. There should be no necessity to have trees and lawns on the edge of the street as well. Some streets are so wide that they could be partially closed off and infill housing build in the street.
Climate First would research an optimal suburban population density, including roads, with the ultimate goal of having citizens sustainably housed in reasonable spaces with sustainable transport options.
The fifth solution is making houses more affordable. The Climate First’s property tax, by making property speculation less profitable, would cause this to happen. It would also stop newly built houses being left empty, waiting to be sold at a capital gain. The proposed capital gains tax would also help here.
New Zealand’s high house prices are the major cause of social inequality and of intergenerational inequality, both of which tend to break down the cohesiveness of society, increasing alienation and, as a consequence, citizens’ mental health. This inequality is due to increase, if economic growth slows as will be inevitable with the steep emission reduction path advocated by Climate First. Thomas Picketty in his book Capital in the 21st Cenury, explained how under low economic growth, wealth moved away from labour and towards capital. The Government should redistribute this wealth away from capital and back to labour.
Thus any young person who does not own a house should vote for the Climate First Party: firstly they would receive the $2,000 pa Universal Citizens’ Income, but have to pay out no property tax. Secondly, as house prices declined, buying a house would be easier for them; and thirdly, rapidly reducing emissions will prevent the worst effect of climate change which will in the future affect them most.
There have been several reasons given for the very high house prices in New Zealand: they include not enough houses to meet demand, too much population increase
Climate First would
Bring in a property tax initially at 0.6% of the council rateable value.
Introduce a Universal Citizens' Income of $2,000 funded partially by the property tax.
Explore an optimal urban population density which would enable sustainable living including transport
Encourage smaller houses
Aim for a static population, with immigration only if the population, with the refugee quota and natural increase/decrease fell below the current 4.6 million