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Harawira: Affordable Housing Bill

Affordable Housing: Enabling Territorial Authorities Bill
Thursday 13 December 2007; 10am
Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau

The link between decent housing and good health is well-established.
Indeed, for centuries, the proverb, a Man’s home is his castle, has represented the concept of a man’s home reflecting his identity and his character, and even in te Ao Maori, we say something similar:

He matua pou whare, e rokohia ana; he matua tangata, e kore e rokohia

The main ridge pole of a house will always stand; not so a person

But for far too many citizens of Aotearoa / New Zealand, and in particular for more and more Maori, the problems of housing affordability are rapidly eroding these longstanding values.

Mr Speaker, this Bill seeks to remedy these problems by providing councils with the tools to address housing and rental affordability, but for many of our whanau, the low level of incomes, and the fact that many Māori whanau have young children and larger families, poses real challenges about suitable housing options.
On top of that, developers are building larger and more expensive homes, the “starter-home market” is shrinking, the property price boom has seen the rate of home ownership plummet in recent years, and today hardly any low-to-medium income whanau can even consider buying a home.

Mr Speaker, I’d like to share with the House some staggering statistics on housing affordability and home ownership, which show that:

- less than 30% of Maori own or partly own their own homes, compared with 65% of non-Maori;

- of those who do own or partly own their homes, only 6.7% are Maori;

- of those who rent their homes, 67% are Maori compared with only 44% for non-Maori;

- and with rentals of $275 a week in Auckland and $211 a week in Wellington dramatically eroding the standard of living for far too many of our people, even rental affordability is becoming a major issue for the future.

Mr Speaker, I’d also like the House to consider the critical state of available housing options in this country, particularly in light of a national forum held at Te Papa Tongarewa less than ten days ago.
There we learnt that homelessness is becoming a significant and growing problem for people moving between temporary forms of shelter, for people living in boarding houses or other inadequate housing, as well as for people forced to sleep rough in parks, streets, deserted buildings, and so on.

Dr Guy Johnson from the Australian Housing and Research Institute, has analysed the frightening reality of the homeless population and he tells us that 75% of homeless youth become homeless adults, 30% of all homeless people were first homeless in their youth, and that there is a growing population of people who have been homeless for much of their life.
The effects of this are apparent in a life characterised by a lack of continuity and certainty, anxiety about the constant search of where to go next, the disruption to education or employment prospects, and the increasing likelihood of exposure to violence, discrimination and exploitation.

As a consequence of such a lifestyle; physical and mental health decline, and the impacts of isolation and alienation, are profound.
In the land of plenty, these increasing levels of homelessness are an indictment on our society, and a condemnation of this government’s current housing policies.

I would also like to refer the Minister to a very valuable resource published last August by the The Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, and the Research Centre for Māori Health and Development at Massey University.
Their study, Māori Housing Experiences: Emerging Trends and Issues by Charles Waldegrave, Peter King, Tangihaere Walker and Eljon Fitzgerald, confirms the fall in Māori home ownership rates, and catalogues the issues of overcrowding, inadequate heating, and substandard housing, as critical factors in any discussion on the status of Maori health.
We also know that the economic conditions which we have regularly profiled in this House have also had a massive and adverse effect, on the ability of whanau to afford adequate housing.
We also note that this Bill enables, but does not require councils to assess the level of affordable housing in their districts, and given the dire circumstances surrounding Maori access to appropriate housing in Aotearoa, we are keen to know why such an assessment is not a core part of business for local bodies.

The Maori Party commends those councils for pushing for legislation to help resolve the desperate housing crisis we are in, and encourages local bodies, particularly those in and around Auckland and other high growth areas, to respond positively to the lack of affordable housing in their regions.

The Maori Party urges the Minister of Housing and her Ministry, to consider the vital need for policies that will actually help house the homeless, and prevent homelessness.
And the Maori Party urges the Minister to ensure that Maori will be involved in further developing Maori housing policy particularly around design and location, and the particular conditions pertaining to Maori whanau.

This Bill is worth supporting if it will genuinely promote the provision of affordable housing to low and moderate income earners, and we will support it as part of our efforts to work with councils and other agencies to develop affordable housing policies which can be taken up throughout Aotearoa.

ENDS

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