Archbishop Philip Richardson believes the budget does not adequately address three critical issues: the housing crisis, the increasing casualisation of work, and the growing inequalities between wealthier and poorer New Zealanders.
“A budget is both a fiscal and a moral document that frames the priorities for our common life as a society,” he says.
“And in this budget the government has not recognised the level of the crisis that church social services groups see every day.”
The Archbishop says the church was hoping to see more in terms of housing and he describes the measures in the budget as “palliative” rather than seeing housing as a priority for society.
“We were looking to this budget to see some greater investment in social housing – and this investment is minimal. Fifty million dollars per year for four years does not recognise the magnitude of the housing crisis.”
“While it is important to help those who need emergency accommodation and to insulate homes, too many New Zealanders are living in cars and in overcrowded conditions.
“New homes are not coming on fast enough,” he says, “and what is planned to be built will not be affordable for low-middle and low income families.
“Increasing land supply may lead to more houses – but the construction industry currently doesn’t have the capacity to build the number of houses that are required, and the houses that are currently available in Auckland are not affordable to the families who need them most.”
Archbishop Richardson says there is little in the budget to address the growing inequalities in New Zealand and so to address poverty which is essentially about access to adequate income so families can live decent lives.
“This budget does not recognise the increasing casualization of work, the minimum hours people at the lower end are given to work, and the number of jobs they often have to hold to keep their families together.
“That, combined with the huge increase in housing costs, creates a crisis for low-middle and low income households. If there is not a corresponding increase in income for them, either through tax credits or a direct increase in incomes, then they are in serious financial trouble.”
Social service workers in the church say while it is pleasing to see an acknowledgement of the level of debt accumulated by low income families, this budget fails to address the underlying affordability issues that will prevent this type of debt in the first place.