Homelessness and living in cars

On The Nation this morning:

A year after Mike Wesley-Smith reported on working families living in their cars in South Auckland, he catches up with some of those families to see where they’re living now, and asks whether the Government has done enough to fight homelessness.

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49 Comments

  1. How can it change? Its a leaky boat tossed upon an ocean of ideology-based, mass-indoctrinated, ‘dollars-above-people’ practice – greed vs need + greed vs good – kept afloat by constant bailing and bailing-out … e.g. bailing-out landlord-property investors with low-income-earner rent subsidies …

    “Homelessness ‘Triple’ what it was last year”?

    So homelessness is inversely proportional to house price increases … House prices rise by 30% and homelessness goes up by 300% …

    It’s a *ROCK STAR* economy all Right!
    Cut in the mold of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain et al …
    Short-term *FIX* … even if it kills ya!

    • Oliver

       /  May 13, 2017

      There’s a correction happening in the housing market as we speak. Won’t be long before houses drop in value by 50 percent.

      Rising interest rates and tougher lending restrictions mean less buyers in the market. It also means those who can afford to borrow have less money to spend. Which will mean house prices going down.

      A significant percentage of the population goes into retirement, that’s the baby boomers. They will look to downsize and liquidate their assets. Which means an increase of homes on the market. In particular large homes, which are no longer needed for elderly people. But who do the sell their homes to ? Millennials have no money, they have student debt. The Chinese can’t get there money out of China due to restrictions. So lots of homes on the market but no one to sell them to.

      Just wait a couple of more years and the housing crisis will be a distant memory.

      • Oliver

         /  May 13, 2017

        Not too mention all those who over borrowed in the vanity market. They will get hit by the higher interest rates. Which means more homes on the market.

        • Anyone who’s bought in the last few years should have factored in higher interest rates.

          • Oliver

             /  May 13, 2017

            That’s wishful thinking.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  May 13, 2017

              It is completely inaccurate that Chinese people are hogging vast numbers of houses-they are a very small % of buyers. Oliver can’t have caught up with this yet, but he should have.

            • I don’t think the government has a gauge on who has bought what. Anecdotal evidence, i.e. evidence from going to auctions, shows that it is certainly not a small percentage. If a house is bought by a trust then is it possible to deduce the residency of the trustees? How would you even calculate that? Also, if you look at Australia and Canada then the numbers are much higher so surely with our more open market the numbers are somewhat equivalent? I know of someone working on a divorce case of an Asian couple and they’re fighting over 120 investment properties, which they own together. 120!

            • Agree with you Clone278 …

              Also, Oliver, where’s the evidence of interest rates rising?

              Would that be the Reserve Bank recently holding the Cash Rate at its current level and announcing it doesn’t anticipate any rise until 2019?

            • Anyone who buys a house must be prepared for mortgage rates to change at some time.

              That person should not be talking about clients and their divorce details.

    • Conspiratoor

       /  May 13, 2017

      If they are prepared to leave Auckland there’s plenty of work and accommodation elsewhere. I know of a nice little 3 bedroom charmer in Lumsden at $128 per week and a job with the local vet for a bovine hoof trimmer paying $55,000. Plenty of moola left over for a box of reds at the end of the week

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  May 13, 2017

    The Government causes homelessness by creating artificial minimum price barriers to jobs and accommodation. Then it attempts to use tax to remedy the problems it has caused but always fails.

    • Yep Alan … The situation must be truly exasperating for a committed anarcho-capitalist …

      When you think that we could be enjoying REAL CHOICE, like genuinely ‘dirt-cheap’, servitude-like labour, and suitably poverty-stricken, undernourished, hopeless, all-but destitute working people living in squalid favella-like slums …

      Why the hell don’t we just bite the bullet and have that … ?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  May 13, 2017

        Put simply, PZ, the house I grew up in would not be allowed to be built today and that’s true for most of us. However, it was more than adequate for a decent life and was nothing like a slum. There are many possibilities for cheap additional accommodation that are now prevented by Government regulation.

        • I’d have to do some research to believe that Alan.

          I grew up in a standard 2 bedroom bungalow that received additions over the years and became 4 brms + office. The equivalent today would be permissable unless covenants imposed by a sub-division prevented it, surely …?

          I see these places – New Zealand’s millenial ‘standard’ house, unit or ‘semi’ – sprouting and proliferating all over the show … back of Orewa … Upper Harbour … Pokeno …

          So it depends what you call cheap, and to what extent you’re okay with “additional” becoming sub-standard …?

          I agree housing is over-regulated BTW … just that the removal of minimum prices and minimum standards is not the answer … Its only the ‘over-regulation’ needs undoing … and that in itself is a complex issue …

          I say that because the over-regulation has gone hand-in-hand with so-called ‘deregulation’ and reform, and the greater influence of ‘market forces’ and industry lobbies …

          Who can forget leaky homes …

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  May 13, 2017

            No insulation. No double glazing. Open fires. No RCD circuit protection. No automatic gas shutoff. No detailed plans including all components and specificaitons signed off by local authorities and multiple inspections during construction followed by indemnities signed by every tradesman plus engineer’s calculations for every beam and span.

            Leaky homes would have been dealt to immediately by the market had local government not been forced to underwrite them all by a combination of judicial and political idiots.

            • Gezza

               /  May 13, 2017

              How would the market have assisted the owners of leaky homes who purchased them not realising deregulation had created the situation where nobody knew that non-weatherproofed substandard houses could be constructed & legally sold?

            • @ Alan – “No insulation. No double glazing. Open fires. No RCD circuit protection. No automatic gas shutoff … ”

              I did say “equivalent”, meaning the contemporary equivalent of the 30s or 40s bungalow, built when those things were ‘standard’ and probably ‘regulation’ in their day …

              Or perhaps you want a return to those things …?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 14, 2017

              @G. It would have ensured leaky homes stopped being built and bought by those too foolish to do their own due diligence under the delusion bureaucrats would do it for them. They would immediately have become unsaleable, uninsurable and unmortgageable.

              As it is they continued to be built and sold.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 14, 2017

              PZ all of those things added cost to new houses and therefore boosted the price of all the existing houses that continue to be lived in without them. They create and maintain the price barrier to entry into the housing market. And yes, we can do without them as we used to do quite happily. They should be optional, not compulsory.

            • Gezza

               /  May 14, 2017

              Alan this is sloganesque foolishness. People in a developed country like New Zealand should be able to have an expectation that houses for sale meet appropriate building requirements & that there are enough building inspectors to ensure that they do. I’m not downticking you at the moment – but I’m letting you off with a warning.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 14, 2017

              Bureaucrat think, G. When I hire an architect, engineer and builder I expect their combined professional expertise to far exceed that of a rule-following paper-pushing bureaucrat. I don’t want them second-guessed by ignoramuses.

            • Gezza

               /  May 14, 2017

              Most people aren’t millionaires like you and can’t afford architects. Building inspectors need to be builders or otherwise appropriately trained in the role. Strike two warning Al.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 14, 2017

              Once a bureaucrat always a bureaucrat, G. Strikes are second nature to you too. The problem is not that most people can’t afford architects but they can’t afford to build. If they don’t have their own architect they are certainly using plans drawn up by someone else’s architect. Very many pages of them. Best save your strikes for something you know something about.

            • Gezza

               /  May 14, 2017

              Don’t say you weren’t warned Al.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 14, 2017

              Excellent. I’ll add it to my score, G.

  3. There’s a number of factors here other than just price.
    For one, there may be no availability. Have we reached a point where there are simply no flats available at the bottom end? Would explain why the students in Wellington were almost rioting come semester start this year. Also, why some backpackers down in Queenstown are sleeping in parks.
    Another factor is investor behavior, in that some investment properties are being left empty because it wasn’t worth the hassle or risk getting tenants. In Vancouver it’s such a problem they’re looking at taxing empty homes. See https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2016/09/now-vancouver-tax-vacant-homes/. Also, the steadily improving housing stock could mean there is less available for poorer folk.
    Finally, I can personally account for lifestyle choice being a factor. I choose to live in my car because it frees up cash to do other things, including saving for a damn house deposit!

    • David

       /  May 13, 2017

      “Another factor is investor behavior, in that some investment properties are being left empty because it wasn’t worth the hassle or risk getting tenants. In Vancouver it’s such a problem they’re looking at taxing empty homes. ”

      An investor who leaves an average Auckland home empty is paying a ‘tax’ of around $30,000 per year.

      The proposed tax in Vancouver would only be between $4000 & $16,000 per year, how do you expect that to change any behavior.

      • @ David – “An investor who leaves an average Auckland home empty is paying a ‘tax’ of around $30,000 per year.”

        Can you do the sums on that for me …?

        I calculate an investor with say a $1million empty home that appreciates 25% in one year is making $250,000.00 …

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  May 13, 2017

          Average Auckland house price increase over last decade is about 9.5% per annum. Inflation has averaged 2.7%, tax would be another 3% so net profit would be about 3.8% say $38,000 less rates, insurance and maintenance. Not very spectacular.

        • David

           /  May 13, 2017

          “Can you do the sums on that for me …?”

          Seriously? Rent for the average house in Auckland about $600/week, every week of the year. That is what an investor gives up by not renting it out. They loose 5-6% of the return. I don’t know of any investor who gives away money like that.

          “I calculate an investor with say a $1million empty home that appreciates 25% in one year is making $250,000.00 …”

          Fake numbers.

      • I wasn’t suggesting a tax but was instead highlighting that empty properties are part of the problem. I also saw some research done by Prosper in Melbourne where they looked at water usage, i.e. a house was considered vacant if their was no water use over a 12 month period, and Prosper calculated a 4.8% vacancy rate, which is obviously significant.
        There are so many moving parts to home availability but you could start with a tax, except of course it counters the neo-liberal theology of the boffins in charge.
        My view is we need to ‘disrupt’ the process holding back new builds. By disrupt, I mean reduce it to first principles and then look at innovative ways to simplify and accelerate things. There is shitloads of land in NZ and farming is not the most productive use of it.
        Our policy of land ownership needs to be reviewed also. Allowing foreigners to buy land is only going in one direction in the long term and that is the average NZer being a renter forever. As George W Bush said, do we just want to be a share-cropper economy? (one of the few wise things uttered from his hawkish mug) Surely jobs aren’t the only goal but ownership of the means of production?

        • David

           /  May 13, 2017

          “I wasn’t suggesting a tax but was instead highlighting that empty properties are part of the problem. ”

          They are not part of the problem. There are always empty properties for a multitude of reasons. Regardless, Auckland has the lowest empty home rate in NZ.

          “There are so many moving parts to home availability but you could start with a tax, except of course it counters the neo-liberal theology of the boffins in charge.”

          As I have pointed out, the tax is not particularly significant if a person is prepared to forgo rental income. Quite how you make something cheaper with a tax is also a mystery.

          “My view is we need to ‘disrupt’ the process holding back new builds. By disrupt, I mean reduce it to first principles and then look at innovative ways to simplify and accelerate things. There is shitloads of land in NZ and farming is not the most productive use of it.”

          New builds are limited by the planning process.

          “Our policy of land ownership needs to be reviewed also. Allowing foreigners to buy land is only going in one direction in the long term and that is the average NZer being a renter forever.”

          Good luck with that, next you will be blaming the Chinese.

          “Surely jobs aren’t the only goal but ownership of the means of production?”

          The means of production these’s days are a laptop and an internet connection, not tractor factories.

          • [me] “I wasn’t suggesting a tax…”
            [you] “They are not part of the problem… “

            Normal? From the NZHerald [Jun 12, 2016] – “More than 33,000 Auckland dwellings are officially classified empty as the city grapples with a crisis of affordable housing and homelessness.

            Auckland’s 6.6 per cent vacancy rate is higher than either Sydney (5.2 percent) or Melbourne (4.8 percent), where there has been an uproar over “ghost houses” deliberately left empty by speculators trading on a soaring market.”

            Yep. I just saw the chart at https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2015/05/28/are-vacant-homes-adding-to-aucklands-housing-shortage/ and can see that at least the Auckland figure is static while areas such as Malborough are growing. On a national scale, I would call it a growing problem and it’ll likely get worse with increasing inequality of wealth and foreign ownership.

            [me] “..you could start with a tax..”
            [you] “..Quite how you make something cheaper with a tax is also a mystery.”

            The tax is only applied if the home is left empty. Call it a fine if that makes it clearer. Properties returned to the rental market mean more supply and cheaper rents.

            [me] “‘disrupt’ the process.”
            [you] “New builds are limited by the planning process.”

            Exactly, so let’s open up the planning process and look for ways that it can be made more transparent and efficient. When I travel around NZ I see empty land everywhere so what is going on with zoning, for example? Why aren’t we seeing new communities sprouting up everywhere, inspired by the Silicon Valley model? What are they doing right in Houston, which is the shining light of light touch zoning, that means median home values in Houston are only USD $144,900, despite its boom.

            I can envisage a time with the arrival of solar and battery tech where communities can be completely off the grid. SpaceX is looking at building a space-based alternative to fiber-optics so you wouldn’t even need the NBN.

            Basically, there needs to be an open dialogue defining all the constraints on development, while allowing people to work more freely within that and to be able to offer and vote on (maybe) alternatives.

            [me] “Allowing foreigners to buy land is only going in one direction ”
            [you] “Good luck with that, next you will be blaming the Chinese.”

            Geeze. I work in IT and I see the government lauding big data and machine learning, etc., as being the solution to health and business and, yet, when it comes to identifying who actually owns each property they have no idea!

            As to alternatives, we can do what the Aussies to and restrict foreign investment to new builds only. It’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel as most countries around the world have restrictions on property ownership. In China, they have restrictions based on where you live in the country. They must be incredulous at how open our market it.

            [me] “Surely jobs aren’t the only goal but ownership of the means of production?”
            [you] “The means of production these’s days are a laptop and an internet connection, not tractor factories.”

            I guess I was trying to say a couple of things.

            For one, surely maintaining ownership of our land and resources makes sense for the long term as if you sell now you might never be able to buy back in again. If we consider land on a global scale the price is only going in one direction and food producing land here will likely become increasingly used to feed populations overseas. Yes, sure we’ll have some jobs building and maintaining the infrastructure and operating the thing but with increasing automation that could well lessen.

            For two, in a capitalist system surely you want to be the capitalist? I get that protecting our industries from foreign competitive didn’t work but we should still be constantly looking at the pros and cons of the neoliberal economic model we follow to determine the overall trends. For example, who is actually pocketing the profit from tourism? The biggest shareholder in Tourism Holdings (THL), our biggest tourism provider, is an Australian company. Sure we get an initial injection of cash but who makes the return over the next 10, 20 years? Can new local companies then get into the market or are they locked out by supply contracts?

            Anyway, it’s probably all coming across as a pile of idealist claptrap but I just worry about this place, particularly when I see an economic model that seems dependent on debt-driven property growth and where an increasing cost of living could quite well start strangling innovation.

        • @ clone278 – “Our policy of land ownership needs to be reviewed also.”

          Yes it does!

          “All economics has one natural purpose, that is to supply mankind with the goods which it needs. And it [economics] has but one single content: the performance of the work required for that purpose … there only remains, as the fundamental factors, the soil, with all that it contains and bears … natural forces, human labour and the inventive human mind. An economic system which is to satisfy moral demands must therefore … create from these elements the maximum of goods with the minimum of human labour, and distribute them equally in accordance with needs.

          The present-day economic system is very far from having any such object. The most important of all goods, in the widest sense, is the home of man, his house … it is the centre of all healthy life, the place to which man is bound by the strongest tie.

          There is nothing in principle which stands in the way of the return to nature – and to ethical economy – than property in the soil.

          A temporary beneficiary of a mysterious dispensation, such is man in relation to the soil. The soil is not a commodity … It exists only in a definite amount, which must suffice for the whole of mankind.

          It is therefore contrary to nature to permit an individual arbitrarily to appropriate to himself a part of the total area, thereby reducing the space available to the others. Of course the Earth is big enough to provide everyone with a home and sufficient soil … but it is only sufficient if its distribution is removed from the sphere of arbitrary action, and if the soil belongs to society as a whole, and only its temporary use by the individual is permitted.

          The present-day land system is in conflict with this. It permits an individual to possess land to an unlimited extent, to deprive the community of spacious domains … to buy up land in expectation of future development and re-sell it years or decades later at an enormous profit … to buy houses which one doesn’t live in oneself, and profit by their yield … to build houses for purposes of gain … and sell them at a profit like goods … it permits of land being inherited like an article of furniture … increasing the inequality of the distribution of land.

          To speak here of property as one does of property in an article of use is to renounce thought.”

          – Frank E Warner, ‘Future of Man’, London, (1944)

          • Brown

             /  May 14, 2017

            Who is this Warner fellow? Sounds like someone who would be endorsing the policies that have ruined Venezuela (from a comfortable position in the filthy rich west of course). I’m not much inclined to give anyone credit for translating someone else’s work either. Is this book a dust gatherer like the volumes of Lenin the union morons have put in the library at work?

            • He’s got you thinking eh Brown? And perhaps a little worried …?

              http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/authors.php?auid=24830

              “Dr. Ernst Frankenstein – aka Frank E. Warner (pseudonym) – was a German-Jewish jurist, and authority on international law. Before settling in London, he had been a member of the Berlin Bar and legal adviser to the Italian Embassy, and served as lecturer at the Academy of International Law at The Hague.”

              Just so you don’t think I idolize the man, his 1944 book ‘Justice for My People’ about the Palestine-Jewish issue is now considered by many to be a “frankly partisan tract”

              ‘Future of Man’ isn’t gathering dust anywhere Brown, its alive and well here on YourNZ courtesy of me …

              “Whether the soil … belongs to the State, the Continental [Regional] or the World organisation, or whether the idea of “belonging” is still appropriate here, is a technical question … Large estates will have to be disposed of first, the compensation for such property, morally least justifiable, being limited. Other restrictions, which deprive the community for generations or for ever of ownership of the soil, eg Trusts and Corporations, will have to be got rid of very speedily …

              The place of private property in land would be taken by other legal forms, which need not by any means be all the same, but could vary greatly according to countries and usages.”

    • Blazer

       /  May 15, 2017

      Vancouver RE is a great comparison,it mirrors Auckland.In the 90’s Hong Kong ‘millionaires’ began investing big time as the handback of Honkers loomed in 1997.They and other speculators/investors saw prices explode.25 years on the govt finally began to take some measures to address the boom.Too little,too late in reality.The 15% tax on foreign buyers has cooled the market somewhat and some areas have declined in value.Labours proposal to prevent foreign buyers buying existing housing stock,is so logical it should have been introduced years ago.This with other measures they propose will certainly affect the landbankers and speculators…bigtime.

  4. A new state house (well, only a very few years old) is empty and has been for a while. It’s a very nice little house, good enough for anyone to live in. Three bedrooms, deck, carport, reasonable size section….why are some of these people not leaping at the chance to live somewhere as good as that ? I would be.

    • That would be government process. Quite clearly there’s a massive waiting list as people are being put up in motels. Also, if you watch the video above it mentions 3 times more people applying for housing assistance, in certain areas. I don’t think they’re turning it down because the house is too new if that’s what you’re thinking?

      • PDB

         /  May 13, 2017

        Happened before…….http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11787765

        Lots of people turn down state houses for strange reasons…..

        RNZ 2015: “Mrs Bennett said increasing the number of suburb options would only apply where it was geographically possible and reasonable to do so.
        She said each case would be assessed on merit, and people would be able to decline a house for good reasons such as health and safety, or concerns about security.
        But there had been too many examples where houses were turned down without good reason, she said.
        “Nearly 10,000 social housing offers were made last year and, of those, 3453 were declined, with 414 for unacceptable reasons such as wanting a garage or a bigger back yard.”

        That’s around a 35% turn down rate – way too high for people supposedly ‘desperate’ for housing.

        Many people in motels are those kicked out of their state homes for various reasons and have no other place to go because their relatives obviously cant be assed helping them. Also offer free housing assistance and give it airtime and more people will apply for it, regardless if they are that needy or not. Look at all the people going to the city mission for a free slap-up xmas feed because it is free & heavily advertised, rather than they are on the streets starving.

        • There seems to be a significant portion of government ineptitude in this.
          For one, obviously, their process is broken if you can keep turning down houses until there’s one you like. Simply add a stipulation that if you turn down a house for no good reason then you go to the back of the queue or you get a six month stand down.
          In regards to emergency housing, Paula Bennet says “To be honest, we just had no idea” and, apparently, there was no real way of knowing if the numbers of children staying in motels are on the rise because the Ministry doesn’t collect statistics (!!!).
          That’s what happens when you brush a problem under the carpet with the hope that it just goes away…

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 13, 2017

        Of course its newness has nothing to do with its being empty. I cannot believe that the government wants it to be. It has to be for some specious reason-it’s not in Auckland ?

        • PDB

           /  May 13, 2017

          Probably didn’t like the colour of it…….

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 14, 2017

            Ah-that must be it. It’s grey, and not everyone likes grey. It also catches a lot of sun, and that makes the furniture fade.

        • Gezza

           /  May 13, 2017

          Just guesswork at the moment. Can you ring up & find out why it’s empty Kitty. Report back?

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 14, 2017

            No, I can’t. It’s one of those standard prefabricated houses-a basic rectangle-has a decent sized kitchen and sittingroom in one, three bedrooms, a reasonable sized roofed deck, carport and is in an attractive street…it’s a few minutes walk from a lake and about a 15 minute walk from the nearest shops….it’s not in an area of state houses (thank goodness) and seems a very pleasant place to live.

  5. Bill Brown

     /  May 14, 2017

    On the positive side we could have some great trailer parks !

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 14, 2017

      Absolutely. There is no excuse for homelessness in this country. It is an outcome created by politicians and regulations.

      • Absolutely its “an outcome created by politicians and regulations.”

        Managers-on-behalf of ‘power & wealth elites’ politicians and re-regulation in the guise of de-regulation.