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Decent housing an impossible dream

Decent housing an impossible dream

For most young families the Kiwi dream of owning their own home is an impossible one.

Unlike their parents, there is no ability to capitalise on family benefit to get a deposit, nor to borrow money at cheap interest rates from the State Advances Corporation.

Alliance housing spokesperson Len Richards says there has been a rapid decline in home ownership among young people (a 44% decrease in 25-44 year olds over the past decade).

"This is linked to student debt, but is also a legacy of the 1980s and 1990s when the increasingly affluent middle-class bought up the houses of the poorest New Zealanders as an investment.

"The speculation has pushed up the price of housing, making it impossible for first home buyers to get a place of their own and pushing low-income families in poverty as they struggle to pay the rent."

Mr Richards says the accommodation supplement has become little more than a massive State subsidy for landlords, keeping rents high. The Alliance advocates rent controls much like there were during the World War I.

"In 1916, rent controls were part of wartime emergency regulations and met with little resistance because the charging of excessive rents seemed unpatriotic at the time. The war on poverty requires the same measures today," Mr Richards says.

The Alliance says housing is a basic need that should be satisfied by State action on behalf of the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Mr Richards points out that New Zealand has had a long history of State provision and intervention to ensure adequate provision of housing.

"This goes back to the days of the Seddon government in the early twentieth century. In the 1920s the Railways Department briefly established a factory in Frankton to mass-produce houses for railway workers," he says.

The first Labour Government, elected in 1935, introduced a State Housing programme designed to provide every worker with "a house fit for a cabinet minister".

"This is the spirit with which the Alliance addresses the question of housing," Mr Richards says.

The Alliance says the Kiwi Bank is providing low-interest, no-deposit loans for people to buy their first homes, but these are limited by strict lending criteria that cuts out many low-income families.

Mr Richards says a publicly owned Housing Construction Agency [ www.alliance.org.nz ] could undertake an ambitious programme of house building, both to supply houses for sale and to rent at no more than a quarter of household income.

"This would not only provide homes, but also create a training ground for the tuition of a whole new generation of apprentices in the building trades." Other agencies such as local bodies and those in the so-called "third sector" would also be encouraged to build more houses by providing low-interest Government loans.

"Only a Government committed to putting people's needs before the demands of capital for profits could carry out such a housing programme."

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