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Frontline housing worker to give 2018 Bruce Jesson Lecture

Frontline social housing worker Bernie Smith will examine how to restore secure housing for all New Zealanders in this year’s Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture on October 23.

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Smith, the chief executive of Māngere-based Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, will argue that the Labour-led government is not doing enough to meet the housing needs of low-income families, and seems to be putting all its efforts into KiwiBuild houses that will cost up to $650,000 each.

“Why does the government believe it can solve the housing crisis by itself using the KiwiBuild programme, instead of proactively and creatively working with community housing providers to reduce the increasing gap between homelessness and home ownership?” Smith will ask.

“The government position is creating further poverty and a greater sense of hopelessness among New Zealand families, who only seek a warm, dry, affordable, long-term, sustainable rental home in which to raise their children.”

In an address titled “Housing crisis: A smoking gun with no silver bullet”, Smith will say that New Zealanders were initially excited by the new Labour-led government’s plans to tackle the crisis.

“But all we’ve ended up with is KiwiBuild,” he says.

“There is no silver bullet to solve the housing crisis, but this talk considers how together we might build strong healthy and safe communities and provide creative housing solutions for our people.

“Every man, women and child, once housed in a secure, warm, safe, affordable and sustainable home, can then stand tall in their culture, faith and gender, and only at that point can their dreams and aspirations begin to transpire and they become self-sufficient.”

With over 40 years in social services in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia, Smith has extensive experience of child protection and foster care, disabilities, seniors and now homelessness and poverty.

On returning to New Zealand in 2016, he was shocked to find that in South Auckland there were 100,000 people living in overcrowded and substandard housing, and appalled to see his own people living in garages, parks, cars and lodges.

He will deliver the 2018 Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture in the Old Government House Lecture Theatre (102-G36) at the University of Auckland at 6pm on Tuesday 23 October.


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