Feature Report by Carolyn Skelton.
At the weekend there were nation wide Hikoi For Homes. The Auckland Hikoi began at Glen Innes, where a large number of State Houses have been sold to private entities.
The Hikoi was a response to the current housing crisis, and especially to the way it is impact on renters: the people who tend to be marginalised by the mainstream media, with its continual cheerleading of the house buying boom (or‘bubble’) in Auckland. The strongest focus was on those on the lowest incomes who have no choice but to rent, while rents keep rising above the rate of incomes.
The demands of the Hikoi are:
- An immediate stop to the sell-off of state and council housing
- A $1 billion annual budget for the provision more state, public and not for profit housing
- Setting minimum standards for all rented housing
- Greater tenure protection for tenants
- Rent freeze for five years
- A statutory right to be housed
- State subsidies for modest income homeownership programmes
Providing more safe, secure, healthy public (state) and not-for profit rental housing will help to take the heat out of the socially and economically damaging housing bubble, both for renters and potential home buyers.
Bernard Hickey explains that in the context where many cannot afford the going rate of renting, taxpayers are subsidising landlords through the widespread allocation of accommodation supplements.
An editorial in the NZ Herald, warns of growing unrest in response to the housing crisis, but does not provide an adequate explanation for its claim that participants in the Hikoi are misguided. It merely reiterates the mainstream media position that it’s all about enabling more people to buy homes by building more houses – a position that favours the developers, investors and speculators who are benefiting most from the current housing crisis.
Around 50% of New Zealanders now live in rental accommodation. The calls for rent controls are gaining impetus. Without rent controls, many tenants will need to seek alternative accommodation if the rent rises to an unaffordable level, whether or not that have security of tenure.
Catriona MacLennan explains why this is necessary, giving examples of countries like Germany and the US that have rent caps.
‘New York has rent controls and rent stabilisation for some properties and, from October 12 this year, the Rent Guidelines Board froze rents on one-year leases for stabilised units.
In Berlin, new rules introduced on June 1 to limit rent increases in certain areas resulted in a 3.1 per cent drop in the average cost of new Berlin rents within a month. The law aims to put a brake on galloping rent rises which have been making inner city tenements unaffordable.”
The Hikoi in Auckland was well attended in spite of some dismal weather – light rain showers throughout, but the biggest downpour held off til the Hiko reached its destination at Orakei Domain.
On the hikoi, I remembered a couple of years back when there was a modest attendance at anti-TPPA protests, with little or no MSM coverage. The attendance at the latest anti-TPPA protests have been much larger, the debate has intensified in the MSM, and a slight majority of New Zealanders polled are against it, with only 34% in favour.
I suspect the demands of the hikoi will more into the mainstream over the next year and gain momentum in the general population.
It’s a matter of a humane and inclusive society that cares for all its members and doesn’t leave some people, including children, no other choice but to sleep in cars, garages and on the streets.
There was a significant Green and Labour Party presence with Phil Twyford, Jacinda Ardern, Jan Logie and Marama Davidson on the Auckland hikoi.
Auckland Action Against Poverty provided a video record of the Hikoi.