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Renting for all ages

21 Jan

A couple of days ago I wrote about the “runaway housing madness“, that just keeps getting worse, while the government continues to favour the profiteering property speculators, investors. I pointed out some of the problems for renters.

housing-is-a-right not a business

Most news reports continue to play into the myth that everyone ought to be able to afford their own home.  This is not necessary, and certainly isn’t practical.  It creates pressure for the majority to try to get onto the home ownership ladder, creating a highly profitable context for increased housing speculation. Some of us choose to be lifetime renters.  Some have no choice but to rent for all their lives. Others of all ages may get into home ownership, but then become renters at a later age.

Many reports highlight the problem of unaffordability for young people wanting to buy their first home. There is an assumption that renting is done mainly by the young, and, that once they get their foot on the first rung of the housing ownership ladder, they are set for life.

However, changing circumstances in people’s lives mean some go from home ownership to renting later in life. In my experience, renting in locations where there are other single person rental households, a significant proportion of renters are older women.  Most are women who have been part of a couple with a mortgage, they have separated from their partners, and their children are now adults. They cannot afford to own a home on their own.

Relationship breakups can also result in some men turning to renting, especially if they have a low and/or insecure income. Yesterday Simon Collins in the NZ Herald reported that the Auckland City Mission is blaming the shortage of affordable housing for the rise in homelessness in the city.

A City Mission count on October 19 last year found 147 people sleeping rough within a 3km radius of the Sky Tower – up 116 per cent from a count of 68 in 2013.

Although most were men, the count found a dramatic increase in women sleeping rough – up from just seven in 2012 to 31 this time, or 21 per cent of the total.

Collins gives the example of Daniel who has spent seven years living on Auckland’s streets.

homeless daniel_20_01 NZ Herald Jan 2015

“Aucklander Daniel has been wait-listed for a house since last winter. Photo / Jason Oxenham”- NZ Herald

Daniel started living on the streets soon after his wife died about seven years ago.

The 39-year-old was a welder in Palmerston North and, with his wife, had raised his younger sisters. But after she became ill and died he “kind of lost the plot”.

“All the vultures started circling, saying, ‘She said I could have this’, ‘She said I could have that’.

“I told everybody I was going to Christchurch. Instead I came [to Auckland].”

He found work within two days because he was good at his job. But it was 2008 and the metal fabrication industry was reeling in the global financial crisis. He was “last on, first off”. He found another job, but was laid off again because “the workforce had to be halved”.

Meanwhile, the government’s faux solution is to once again try to weaken the Resource Management Act in favour of the profiteering speculators and investors. A press release from Julie Anne Genter of the Green Party explains why that is not the way to go.

“National has created a myth around the RMA in order to pass law that will hurt our environment.

“Blaming the RMA for everything is a distraction from the Government’s failure to address the housing crisis by building affordable homes, and ending the huge tax incentives for speculators to invest in the housing market.

[…]

“The Green Party would increase the supply of affordable housing by undertaking a programme of state building, introduce a capital gains tax, and introduce a Progressive Ownership initiative to allow low income families to ‘rent-to-own’ government-built houses at an affordable price.

Very good points, even though they also put the ultimate goal as the holy grail of home ownership.  Their policy to increase state rental housing is a must.  This will put downward pressure on rentals and house prices.  Also, state housing sets higher standards of safety , especially for children living in rented housing.

On 15 January 2015, an Auckland University article reported on a survey that showed a significant proportion of private rentals were unsafe for children.

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