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What New Zealanders Think About Affordable Housing

Affordable housing: what New Zealanders think

Scoop Media and Public Engagement Projects (PEP) are pleased to report findings from the HiveMind project on affordable housing.

HiveMind is Scoop’s new public engagement platform that aims to give New Zealanders a chance to co-create a more participatory and interactive public media. It is powered by an advance survey tool called Pol.is that allows people to vote on statements about an issue, see how different opinion groups understand it, and add their own ideas for other people to vote on.

Talk about housing affordability has been dominated by politicians, the media, NGOs and various experts. Ordinary citizens have had very few venues where they can debate and discuss as to what they believe has led to the crisis in affordable housing and how we might begin to address this. The HiveMind on affordable housing was about redressing the balance.

The response to the affordability housing HiveMind by Scoop readers was very encouraging. 381 people from a wide variety of ages and income levels took part and cast a total of 15,076 votes. Participants included people living in their own houses, renters and property investors. Emphasising the creativity, interest and concern that there is out there in the community; fifty-seven people added 125 ideas about how to crack affordability.

Three distinct opinion groups emerged from the voting patterns. One group (23 people) believed that a market-based approach would improve affordability. On the other hand, two other groups (64 and 74) believe that the government needs to be the key player in making housing affordable. A fourth group of people was identified by Pol.is. However, it is difficult to say what people in this group believed as most did not vote on many statements.

Issues like affordable housing are complex because they involve many different participants who often hold very different views on what the problem is and how to fix it. Most of us recognise that affordable housing is a very important issue but we disagree on what the causes are and how to solve it. One reason why this HiveMind project and Pol.is is important is because it surfaces the major lines of agreement (and disagreement) across all opinions. This means that decision-makers, if they really listen to these results, can be confident of making decisions because it would reflect this level of agreement.

HiveMind projects are particularly interested in areas of common ground and three were identified for affordable housing. Over 86% of all participants agreed that:

• Current policy initiatives, such as tighter rules for property investors and measures to increase the supply of land for development, are insufficient to address housing affordability.

• Property speculation is artificially driving up the price of houses since housing offers investors some of the best passive returns on offer because of tax settings.

• Solving the problem requires real leadership with a long-term focus and commitment that is at odds with NZ’s central and local government electoral cycles. No one sector can solve housing affordability by itself. Solutions to housing affordability require non-partisan political agreement and a range of non-state actors to be included in governance and decision-making processes.

The above findings were agreed by a majority (50% or above) of people in all opinions groups.

A large majority of HiveMind participants agreed on a range of other aspects of the affordable housing issue. Those who did not share these majority views tended to those who believed a market approach will help deliver affordable housing. The following list provides a snap shot of these areas of agreement:

• 85% of people believe that the government has a responsibility for building and owning a sizeable stock of houses.

• 84% believed that developers and others should be required to make sure that at least 20% of new houses are affordable when new land is developed.

• 73% supported a role for Maori and community groups to provide affordable, emergency and social housing.

• 81% say if it’s just left to the market, builders and developers won’t build smaller cheaper houses.

• 87% do not believe that a $500,000 house is an affordable house.

• 85% don’t believe cutting regulations or just opening more land will lead to housing becoming more affordable.

• 73% of people didn’t think improving productivity in the construction sector will necessarily lead to housing being more affordable.

• 91% agreed that greater provision is needed for emergency housing, social housing, not just government provided and assisted home ownership.

• 91% agreed that it is important that lowering costs of building houses doesn’t lose sight of housing quality.

The affordable housing HiveMind was a collaboration between Scoop Media and Public Engagement Projects (PEP). The HiveMind was launched on 15 June and closed on 9 July 2017.

The information provided to support the affordable housing HiveMind and the visualisation of the opinion groups can be viewed by clicking on the following link: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1706/S00034/making-housing-affordable-lets-crack-it.htm.


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