Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Are Kiwis losing their birthright?

Catholic Cardinal John Dew and Archbishop Philip Richardson have today suggested Kiwis now risk losing their once-achievable dream of owning their own homes.
• The church leaders’ full statement 
• Forever home - the Herald story
Research makes the case for affordable housing
• New research from The Housing Foundation

Taonga News  |  11 Apr 2017  |

The leaders of New Zealand’s two largest Christian denominations say that the housing scene has changed so drastically in 25 years that Kiwis risk losing their birthright.

“A generation ago,” says Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson, “owning your own home was an achievable aspiration for most New Zealanders.”

Whereas research released today, says Catholic Cardinal John Dew, confirms that home ownership birthright is being lost – and thousands of Kiwis are living in rental-trap poverty because of that.

Both leaders appeared in Wellington this morning to support the release of a research bulletin prepared by the Housing Foundation[1], called: From social renting to housing independence – the social and economic impacts of housing tenure.
Radical change, in one generation
The two leaders say this research confirms that the housing scene in New Zealand is radically different from what it was 25 years ago – and that those changes are for worse, not for better.

For example, the Housing Foundation bulletin shows that:

  • Between 1991 and 2015 the proportion of Kiwi households who owned their homes had shrunk from 74 percent to 64 percent.
  • While over the same period the proportion of Kiwi households who rent had ballooned from 23 to 32 percent.
  • And that’s saying nothing about the runaway cost of housing in our largest city, where today’s research shows that 115,000 renters can’t afford the median Auckland rent of $540 per week.

The Housing Foundation commissioned three pieces of research[2] into the relationship between housing tenure, and it’s social and economic impacts – and the two church leaders say that research demonstrate a direct link between owning decent housing; and healthier, happier, stronger, more resilient individuals, families, and communities.

The tipping point

The two church leaders have today released a statement in support of the Housing Foundation research – which proves, they say, that New Zealand society is “at a tipping point”.

“Families are paying to live in places that are simply not fit to live in, places that make them and their children sick. There are no consequences for landlords, but significant consequences for all taxpayers who pick up the costs of the consequences.”

“Churches and church agencies up and down the country are directly supporting those who are struggling, and our people at the coalface tell us that things are not improving.”

“They are seeing more signs of need, greater levels of poverty, more stress, and a growing gap between those who have, and those who do not have.”

This is an issue for all New Zealanders, the two church leaders say.

Challenging received ‘wisdom’ 

“We need to raise our voices in support of the right of everyone to a dry, warm, safe and secure home – and we call upon all political parties to provide policies that will deliver this.

“We need to raise our voices against the ‘wisdom’ that suggests that market forces can and should meet the need. Because this Housing Foundation research, and our experience, proves they do not.

“Councils, governments, private property owners, and investors all have a role to play to make the housing system in New Zealand better meet the needs of all Kiwis.

“A generation ago, owning your own home was an achievable aspiration for most New Zealanders.

“We must not let that aspiration go – we must not sell our Kiwi birthright.”

Footnote: Bishop Muru Walters, the Senior Bishop of Tikanga Maori, has expressed full support for the statement.

[1] New Zealand Housing Foundation is a charitable housing trust formed in 2003 in response to:

•  A lack of secure, stable, affordable housing options for people on low to medium incomes

•  A lack of “housing pathways” for renting low income households

•  A lack of understanding and research in providing affordable housing

•  A small and limited community-based social and affordable housing sector.

[2] By BERL (Business Economic Research Ltd) the Lower Hutt-based Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit and NEXUS Research.