There is currently a housing crisis in New Zealand. Not only has it become extremely difficult for first home buyers to buy their own home, homelessness has grown at a frightening rate. New Zealand currently has the highest level of homelessness in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). New Zealand has almost twice the proportion of homelessness as that of the runner up, Australia. The implications of this are significant and distressing, particularly for children, minorities, low-income households, and other vulnerable groups.
The cost of buying one’s home is also extremely distressing. Statistics NZ recently reported that “homeownership rates have fallen for all age groups since the early 1990s, but especially for those in their 20s and 30s” and that overall, home ownership is at its lowest in almost 70 years. ANZ has estimated that “since the late 1990s, home ownership costs have increased from about 35% of household incomes to around 45%, and the time taken to save for a deposit (assuming one is saving 10% of pre-tax income) has grown from 8 to almost 15 years – and is only getting longer.
It’s one thing for middle-class people to never be able to afford to own their own homes. Generally, almost all middle-class people live in homes, they just rent them instead of owning them. However, there is an entire group of people in this country who not only will never own their home, they can’t find a home to live in; even if they do, they are not able to afford it. If we want to be considered a just society, this is absolutely unacceptable, and we as Christians need to be at the forefront decrying this. It’s true that owning a home is a privilege, not a right. But I believe IT IS A RIGHT for everyone who wants a decent home to live in, to be able to get one. At least, that’s the type of society that I would like to live in and I think the one the Gospel calls us to create.
We as a society also need to realise that homes are homes and not houses. Not everyone needs ¼ acre with 4 bedrooms. I personally grew up in an apartment (in Canada), and honestly, I prefer it to house living. Apartments, condos, tiny homes, town houses, duplexes, lofts, there are all sorts of possibilities for housing, let’s not close our minds to them.
Housing is a complicated issue to solve. If it was easy, I’m sure a government would have solved it by now. But successive governments have failed to implement any policies to actually help alleviate the crisis. The Prime Minister seemed to really care that there was a problem back in 2011 when she was one of the youngest MPs in parliament and didn’t own a home. But now that the Prime Minister and her party are free to action any policy they want, it is not clear that they are truly interested in effectively addressing the crisis, at least not to the extent that it will lose them votes.
However, as COVID has taught us, where there is a will there is a way. The government undertook radical measures to protect New Zealand from a health crisis. They were able to accomplish this because most of New Zealand was behind them.
Well, we have another crisis on our hands, and I believe the Church has an opportunity to advocate real positive change in society. Secular groups like ANZ and The Aotearoa Pledge are already trying to change things instead of waiting for an indecisive government.
In that vein, I propose the slogan, “Kiwis deserve HOMES” where HOMES stands for:
Healthy Housing in NZ should be warm and free from things like dampness and mould. One should feel safe and protected at home from things like fires and earthquakes.
Outward-facing. Housing in NZ should contribute to community building. There should be ample spaces for people to go outside, to exercise, to worship, and to interact with our neighbours. Strong communities create a strong NZ.
Meaningful. Housing in NZ should help people create positive and meaningful memories. Many people in NZ currently fear being evicted from their homes due to increasing rents, difficult landlords, and housing costs. A home should be affordable, where a person, couple, or family/whānau can live, put down roots, and blossom in a stable situation.
Environmentally friendly. Housing in NZ should take the environment into consideration. We need to honour and steward the land God has given us. Housing should not negatively harm our planet and needs to be built in an environmentally sustainable way so future generations of Kiwis can enjoy our beautiful country.
Suitable. Housing in NZ should be suitable to those living in said housing. They should be designed to be comfortable, affordable, and utilising best and most ethical construction methods. Every Kiwi should feel they belong in their home.
No one should be homeless in a country as rich as New Zealand. As Christians, this is an area where I think we can make a real difference. Let our voices be heard as we advocate that all Kiwis deserve HOMES.