No long-term cheer in Affordable Housing Bill

Published: Fri 14 Dec 2007 11:44 AM
Te Kaiawhina Ahumahi – Social Services Industry Training organisation
No long-term cheer in Affordable Housing Bill
The Affordable Housing Enabling Territorial Authorities Bill has been introduced in Parliament this week. As it stands the Bill will not eliminate poverty for any sizable group of people because:
·      it is not linked to cheap govt loans or mortgages
·      it is not mandatory
·      the scheme relies on developers and relatively small incentives
·      there are no targets and therefore no real commitment
Is it a step in the right direction? Yes. But such small steps are a worry when bigger ones could have been made. When is the major commitment to reducing poverty going to come?
See column below.
Who's making the connection between strong families and housing?
Houses are more than bricks and mortar. They are places that young people call home. Places where lessons are learnt and identities are formed. Houses don't exist in isolation but in large groups – those things we sometimes call communities.
Yet the chances of young families being able to own their own homes is crumbling like sand castles on a beach, just as quickly as an expanding private rental environment looks set to entrench expensive short-term tenure and over-crowding.
Permanent, affordable housing translates to stability, sustenance, security and a place where families build their sense of belonging.
Every significant report this year, from the Quality of Life report to Ministry of Social Development reports, points to a growing economic disparity between peoples in this country that is putting affordable housing out of reach for whole new generations: Maori and Pacific peoples in particular.
There is a connection or at least a challenge for the governments 'strengthening families' strategy. Namely how can families get stronger without affordable housing. Achieving better coordination between welfare agencies might be part of the answer, but the uphill efforts to combat poverty, social isolation and ill-health only become steeper if affordable housing is left out of the equation.
Creating stability and social cohesiveness must surely be at the heart of any government agenda.  Yet, as a society New Zealand has not committed the necessary resources to ensure that new generations of families have permanence in communities. Where is the national strategy for affordable housing, with targets to be met regionally? Why do we have only isolated pockets of relief for a very small minority instead?
For those of us lucky to have holidays at the beach this summer, we could also take some time to reflect on what strengthening families means for the rest of the year back in our home towns and cities – and how the strength of any family in our communities depends on having a secure, affordable roof over our heads.

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