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Housing advocates release an alternative review of Kāinga Ora, showing stigmatisation and underfunding the real problems – CPAG

Public housing advocates and experts are warning the Government that rhetoric around “anti-social tenants” is a distraction from what is truly needed to fix decades of neglect and under-resourcing of our public housing programme.

They have released a new report, A People’s Review of Kāinga Ora: In Defence of Public Housing, which calls on the Government to have a long-term commitment to building and retrofitting public housing at pace and scale that will truly address the housing crisis.

They have also been troubled and disturbed that this Government commissioned Sir Bill English to do the so-called”independent” review of Kāinga Ora due this month, when his government was responsible for evicting people and the privatisation of our State homes.

“It is clear that the recent announcements by the Government to increase evictions of public housing tenants, and force people living in emergency housing into private rentals, is preparing the ground for a new assault on public housing, at a time where we need it the most,” says Vanessa Cole, author of the report and spokesperson for Public Housing Futures.

“The People’s Review listened to people whose lives have been transformed by public housing, those on the frontlines of the housing crisis, local and international research, and lessons from history, to tell the full story about public housing and its essential role in providing decent, stable and truly affordable housing to people in our communities,” says Cole

“Public housing is a key solution to our housing crisis, yet successive governments have under-maintained and under-resourced the programme, prioritising private market profits over making sure that everyone has a home. 

“This has forced Kāinga Ora to borrow and sell off land in state housing neighbourhoods in order to pay for years of neglect. Kāinga Ora has begun to ramp up house building again and it is important to maintain this momentum in order to achieve a greater presence of public rental housing in the housing landscape.” says Cole

“Under the previous Government, Kainga Ora’s debt did grow substantially. However, this was due to the organisation being starved of capital by successive governments and being forced to borrow from private debt markets in order to meet the Government’s housing and urban redevelopment ambitions.

This debt is Government-backed so its current level is unlikely to concern financial markets, and its so-called sustainability depends entirely on a political choice by the Government to support Kāinga Ora and its operations,” said CPAG’s Alan Johnson, who wrote the review of Kainga Ora’s Financial Position.

“Government under-resourcing of public housing impacts everyone. When people are poorly housed, it has ripple effects on all of our lives – health services are strained as more people are admitted for housing-related illnesses, educational outcomes worsen as people are forced to move in search of housing, and our housing support systems are stretched,” Cole says

The report highlights that low-income households in Aotearoa are paying too much of their income on private rentals (the highest in the OECD), many of whom rely on Government subsidies to private landlords to keep a roof over their heads. At the same time, Aotearoa is falling behind internationally, with a public housing stock at just 3.4% of all housing. The OECD average is 7%, the UK 17%, and the Netherlands 34.1%.

“We have a demand for public housing that stretches far beyond the waitlist – with low-income households in Aotearoa paying too much of their income on housing (the highest in the OECD), people living in unsuitable housing, and an ageing population going into retirement as renters. Public housing is the catalyst. Countries and cities with more public housing stock and generous eligibility, have better housing outcomes for everyone,” says Cole.

“When the Government plays a bigger role in building and providing good quality public rental housing, and then provides a more generous eligibility criteria, it keeps construction moving, creates jobs, and saves on public spending through reduced need for private landlord subsidies, and savings in other areas such as health and education,” says Cole.

The report highlights the voices and stories of people on the waitlist, those living in public housing, renters and homeowners who support more and better public housing. This comes off the back of a recent ActionStation Aotearoa survey where 75.5% of respondents wanted more public housing in their neighbourhoods.

“Despite what we have heard in the media and from our political leaders, people actually support public housing in their backyards. People who responded to the People’s Review, spoke about the way public housing had provided stability in their lives, and in their neighbours lives. People also spoke of their dreams for improving public housing through not only increasing the stock, but making it more accessible (Universal Design), multi-generational, culturally appropriate, and a part of wider community infrastructure,” says Cole.

“People want real solutions to the housing crisis, and see public housing as core to building thriving communities and futures for everyone.” says Cole

The key findings and recommendations of the People’s Review of Kainga Ora; In Defense of Public Housing call on policymakers to prioritise proper resourcing for more and better public rental housing.

 

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