Homelessness “is much worse than previously thought”

NZH seems to have got a report that is to be released this morning in advance – Homeless crisis: 80% to 90% of homeless people turned away from emergency housing

New Zealand’s homelessness crisis is much worse than previously thought, as a new report identifies a hidden homeless population that is not officially monitored by government agencies.

More than 80 per cent of all homeless people turning up to community emergency housing providers in the last year were turned away because the system is bursting at the seams, according to an independent housing stocktake to be released today.

And the number of recorded homeless people without a safe and secure place to live is expected to rise significantly, as more struggling people are told that help is available and come out of the shadows.

The report, authored by economist Shamubeel Eaqub​, University of Otago Professor of Public Health Philippa Howden-Chapman and the Salvation Army’s Alan Johnson, will be released this morning by Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

The report is understood to bring together figures across a number of areas including homelessness, the rental market, housing affordability – including the rising costs relative to wage increases – and housing supply nationwide, with a specific focus on Auckland.

One of the report’s main focuses will be to highlight a hidden homeless population that is not officially monitored or recorded.

However, community emergency housing providers report they are at full capacity, and their data from last year indicate that for every 10 homeless people that approach them, eight to nine are turned away.​

The report will refer to a burgeoning “floating population” – people without safe and secure housing, including in temporary housing, sharing with another household, or living in uninhabitable places.

The report is understood to say that greater awareness of the issue, along with more information campaigns about where to get help, is expected to lead to reported homelessness getting worse.

The report is intended as analysis of the housing issue, and is not expected to make any recommendations for action.

Odd that the Herald keeps referring to “The report is understood to…” when they obviously either have a copy of the report (have they broken an embargo?) or have been provided with details.

The Government describes it as an independent stocktake of the housing crisis to help focus its work. But National’s housing spokesman Michael Woodhouse has call it a “smoke and mirrors” exercise to find the numbers to fit the Government’s narrative, when the housing market is “flat to falling”.

Politics aside, there is obviously a problem with homelessness and difficulties in finding suitable housing for many people.

Context box: Homelessness crisis

  • 8 to 9 out of every 10 homeless people turned away from emergency housing providers
  • Hidden homeless population with no official monitoring or recording
  • 1 in 100 live in severe housing deprivation in 2013 census, up from 1 in 120 in 2006 and 1 in 130 in 2001
  • Auckland Council says 23,409 in severe housing deprivation last year, up 3000 from the 2013 census
  • 7725 on state house waiting list, up 5 per cent from Sept quarter
  • MBIE figures show a nationwide shortfall of 71,000 houses; 45,000 in Auckland

Regardless of a report trying to detail and quantify the extent of the problems, the key is what the current Government can do to alleviate both homelessness and the wider housing shortage.

Housing Minister Twyford proposes all but rent controls

Housing Minister Phil Twyford thinks that the only way to keep rental rates in check is to significantly increase the supply of housing. That makes sense. But he still intends to introduce rental ‘reforms’ – that is, impose restrictions on rent increases and the costs of letting.

There are already signs that some landlords are quitting the business, or seriously considering it. Putting more pressure on them may make rental supply tighter rather than better.

Stuff: How Phil Twyford plans to address the renting crisis

New Housing Minister Phil Twyford has several plans to make life easier for renters, but has ruled out rent controls.

Instead the new minister is clear that in his view the only way to seriously keep rents in check is to greatly increase supply.

But that doesn’t mean he wants the Government to stay out of the equation: he thinks it has a serious role to play in both increasing supply and softening the rough edges of the private market.

By the end of this year, Twyford wants to introduce legislation to reform the Residential Tenancies Act, our main tenancy law.

The key parts of these proposed reforms will be:

  • an end to letting fees that are charged to tenants,
  • a requirement that rents can be raised only once a year instead of every six months,
  • an end to no-reason terminations,
  • the required inclusion of a formula for how those rent rises will be calculated on every tenancy agreement.

That sounds like coming very close to rent controls.

National’s Housing Spokesman Michael Woodhouse new rules on landlords could easily see them exit the market and reduce the supply just when it is needed most.

“Certainly the best thing not to do is to make it harder for landlords to offer their properties,” Woodhouse said.

“We wouldn’t be following these punitive policies for landlords that they have introduced or said that they would introduce, that are making people like Andrew King from the Property Investors Federation say it’s just getting too hard for the overwhelming majority of landlords who only own one or two properties with things like capital gains tax and ring fencing, or the unknown costs from the Healthy Homes Guarantee bill.

“These are not all sophisticated profit-driven landlords – these are nurses and doctors and teachers.

But Twyford doesn’t believe many landlords will be literally leaving their homes empty, meaning the sum total of housing available shouldn’t significantly change.

The biggest potential problem isn’t landlords leaving their properties empty (they wouldn’t be landlords then, they would be bach or crib owners).

In the short term another Government MP  is also keen to help.

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson is advising any tenants who believe their rent has risen well above the market rent in their area to consider taking their landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal.

The real risk is precipitating an exodus of landlords from the housing market altogether. In particular, as more baby boomer landlords reach or near retirement they may decide there is something simpler and safer to do with their retirement investments.

National’s campaign on roading

The National Opposition has revved up early in the political year with a campaign on roading. Over the last two days they have launched a number of press releases and petitions:

National Party launches bid to save highway projects

The National Party has today launched a series of petitions aimed at saving regional highway projects at risk because of the Government’s obsession with Auckland trams…

MPs launch bid to save road of national significance

National MPs Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty and Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel have today launched a campaign to ensure the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.

Four-lanes crucial to Canterbury growth

Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon has today launched a petition aimed at saving plans to extend State Highway 1 between Christchurch and Ashburton to four lanes.

Tauranga to Hamilton expressway extension at risk

National’s petition to extend the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Tirau and from Cambridge to the Kaimai Range was launched today, announced MPs for Tauranga and Hamilton East…

Napier to Hastings Expressway at risk

MP for Tukituki Lawrence Yule has today launched a petition aimed at saving the project that would ensure the four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway…

Waimak MP backs petition to save motorway project

MP for Waimakariri Matt Doocey says the Christchurch Northern Motorway from Belfast to Pegasus should not be put at risk while the Government attempts to divert billions of dollars…

Petition launched to support East-West Link

National MPs Denise Lee, Simeon Brown and Jami-Lee Ross have today launched a petition to gather support for the East-West Link which is now uncertain under the new Government.

Until now the Government has seemed to be on holiday, but this has dragged Minister of Transport Phil Twyford into the new year in a hurry. He has responded in part.

ODT: Transport concerns unfounded: minister

Suggesting the Government was not going ahead with roading projects which do not exist is misleading, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.

Responding to National Party transport spokeswoman Judith Collins claims the Government was diverting financing, Mr Twyford’s spokeswoman said the New Zealand Transport Agency had advised funding for road upgrades could not be redirected into rail.

“National’s concerns are unfounded. The Mill Rd Corridor upgrade is an Auckland Transport project and planning is continuing.

“The Labour-led Government has not altered any existing roading projects except Auckland’s East-West link and officials are working to identify a lower-cost, better-value option.”

Mr Twyford’s spokeswoman said it was important to note the other “highway projects” referred to in National’s petition did not exist.

They were election campaign promises made by National in August last year and never costed or funded.

“To suggest the Government isn’t going ahead with projects that don’t exist is misleading. And to suggest non-existing funding be diverted into rail is nonsensical.”

National’s spokesperson for Transport, Judith Collins, is coordinating the petitions.

Ms Collins launched national petitions yesterday aimed at saving national regional highway projects.

Regional highway projects were at risk because of the Government’s obsession with Auckland trams, she said.

Ms Collins said the Transport Minister now had several of those projects under review.

”That’s not good enough. Our regional communities deserve them and the National Party is committed to fighting for them.”

Twyford has a lot on his ministerial plates -n he has already been put under the Housing spotlight. It looks likke being a busy year for him.

Petition to ‘save’ road of ‘national importance’

The Opposition has started early this year with two National MPs launching a petition in a purported “bid to save road of national significance”.

The Greens especially and also Labour used petitions as an Opposition tactic last term.

Press release from the National Party: MPs launch bid to save road of national significance

National MPs Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty and Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel have today launched a campaign to ensure the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.

“The previous National-led Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand, including the delivery of not only the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL) and the Katikati bypass, but also a full four-lane motorway from Tauranga to Katikati,” Mr Simpson says.
“These projects would greatly improve safety and travel times, better connect our regions and boost regional economic growth. However, the new Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, has now indicated a number of these projects are under review.

“The by-pass of Katikati was warmly welcomed locally and this critical investment must go ahead with construction of the TNL beginning this year as planned. The road must also go all the way to Tauranga because that stretch of highway is currently one of the most dangerous in the country.”

“The Road of National Significance that includes the TNL would see a continuous four-lane State Highway with wide lanes, grade separated intersections and other safety measures stretching from Tauranga to Katikati,” Mr Muller says.

“I am particularly focused on ensuring our Omokoroa community is provided with a grade separated connection onto State Highway 2, and the work has to start immediately.
“This investment is critically important for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty region and the Government has wrongly thrown the project into uncertainty.
“Our local National team will be pushing the Government to commit to the project and we encourage the public to show their support and ensure our region’s voice is heard loud and clear through signing this petition.”

The petition can be found here.

The petition states:

Support the Katikati to Tauranga Road of National Significance

The Katikati to Tauranga Road of National Significance is needed to greatly improve safety, shorten travel times, better connect our regions and boost economic development.

State Highway 2 is one of the most dangerous stretched of road in the country, however the new Transport Minister is failing to commit to the project.

Add your name, and let Phil Twyford know that he needs to back our regions.

Twyford is the new Minister of Transport.

Like Green and Labour ‘petitions’ this one seems to be an attempt to harvest contact information. It insists on email address, first and last name, and also prompts for Mobile phone number, and defaults to ticking ‘Send me text message updates’.

Most people are likely to have there things on things other than Katikati to Tauranga roading at this time of year.

It’s debatable whether the road being petitioned for is of ‘national importance’ but it is of National (Party, the Opposition) importance.

I’m not sure how much political petitions have had on public opinion, opinion polls or elections, but I doubt if it’s much.

 

Chinese sounding names revisited

In 2015 Labour got blasted for their claims that data of Chinese-sounding-names proved some point about housing. Most of what I remember is the mess Labour made of it.

Russell Brown has some new information on this that looks bad for both Labour and for the media that ran their story.

At Public Address – Harkanwal Singh: What really happened with those Chinese-sounding-names

The 2015 publication of what has become known as the the “Chinese-sounding-names” story on Auckland home ownership was, says Harkanwal Singh, “a really pivotal moment for me, working in a New Zealand newsroom. Because that’s when I realised that things don’t have to be true to be published.”

Singh was working as the New Zealand Herald’s first dedicated data journalist and was at the meeting where Labour Party MP Phil Twyford and party researcher Rob Salmond brought in their data – which they said showed a hitherto unsuspected level of Chinese foreign ownership in Auckland housing.

“They said ‘we’re not being racist’ as they handed over the data set,” he told Jogai Bhatt and I at last Sunday’s Orcon IRL.

Singh’s questions over the data delayed publication by a week. During that week he contacted Auckland University’s Thomas Lumley and Edward Abraham of Dragonfly Data Science (“the best statisticians in the country”).

“And I went back to my editors and I said, look, you should publish it, but you should say that Labour is saying this – and the statisticians are saying that it’s not true.”

His suggestion was not taken up by his editors.

“The story ran with the headline ‘We have Chinese buyers’ and and all I did was add some bullet points which said ‘this data is wrong’. But they were published on the fifth page, inside, in a little box, so no one really saw them.

“It was hugely problematic and as a immigrant and as a person of colour, I saw a huge problem with it. But no one else in the newsroom saw any problem with it. And when I approached senior journalists I was told ‘it’s a great story’.

“I think it’s still not been addressed and no one’s really addressed how they went about doing it. And it’s a huge issue of data literacy if you’re just going to publish analysis done by political parties for their own goals.”

Concerns of a data expert were ignored in the race to make headlines. This is a stain on the Herald as well as on Labour.

Video of the whole interview:

While this was poorly done by Labour and by the Herald there could be valid concerns about who was buying and financing properties that stoke the price surge.

James Ting-Edwards in comments:

Attachment

Among the sad parts of this story is that the “foreign money” conversation could have happened without anti-migrant language or dog-whistles.

David Hood had a good go at telling that story here (with the graph above), drawing on data to show a divergence between the rise in NZ house values and domestic borrowing. That “magic money” came from somewhere, and is a legitimate domestic policy target regardless of its source in terms of countries, geopolitics, or cultural ties.

He quotes a key paragraph:

Is all the magic money offshore capital? We just don’t know. There is a lack of evidence of it coming from other parts inside the New Zealand economy, and given the hundreds of billions of dollars, a local source would be somewhat obvious. We also know that in other countries, with more internal housing markets, household debt does not just match the pattern of house value, the amounts add up to the same in gains. In New Zealand there is a 300 billion shortfall.

Proper investigations by Labour and the media may have found the answers.

Instead they went for dog whistling using dodgy data.

Phil twyford is now Minister of Housing, and NZ Herald continues to promote click bait headlines and sack journalists.

Prime Minister refuses to reaffirm Kiwibuild numbers

In the first Question Time under the new Government Bill English pressed acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis on Labour’s commitment to build 100,000 houses in 10 years. Davis refused to reaffirm this repeatedly.

(Davis is Acting Prime  Minister while Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters are at APEC in Vietnam.)

GovernmentMeasurable Targets

1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What will the specific measurable targets be, if any, that she will use to hold her Government to account?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Acting Prime Minister): As Prime Minister, I will hold my Ministers to account for improving the well-being and living standards of New Zealanders.

Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure we should follow to monitor progress on KiwiBuild where the Government has committed to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: So does that mean that the current expression of the Government’s commitment, which is “to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years” does not necessarily mean what most people would take it to mean?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her Government’s commitment to “build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years”?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: Why did the Government commit to “build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years” if it is now not willing to re-express that commitment in this House?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Because the previous Government didn’t build houses.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is it possible that the Government is revising this commitment because of public statements made by the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, that the commitment may involve not building houses but buying existing houses?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No.

Rt Hon Bill English: What other reason could there possibly be for not being willing to restate a commitment made by all its members right though the election campaign to “build 100,000 houses”? What other reason could there be not to make that commitment here today?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are not revising targets. We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: So is the commitment to build 100,000 houses an appropriate target, or one that is subject to revision or further decisions, or is it one that we should take at its word?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The member will find out in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: My question to the Prime Minister is this, then: are there other commitments that were made during the election campaign and in the Speech from the Throne that are now open to revision and later decisions?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are committed to implementing what the Governor-General has said in the Speech from the Throne.

Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify: it’s been the practice in the House for some time that a member answering on behalf of another member should clearly identify that. I didn’t want to interrupt the question, but can you clarify whether that is still the case?

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister answered the question.

Davis may have been playing safe, but this was an odd opening performance.

From the Speech from the Throne:

Housing is a top priority for this government. Action will be taken to address homelessness. State house sell offs will stop. And the State will take the lead in building affordable houses.  Through its Kiwibuild programme, this government pledges to build 100,000 high quality, affordable homes over the next 10 years; half of them in Auckland.

Davis said they were committed to implementing that but wouldn’t make a direct commitment.

In the next question Housing Minister Phil Twyford was prepared to make a commitment.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development have reiterated our policy, which is to build 100,000 affordable homes to restore affordable homeownership to this country.

So it is odd that Davis wasn’t prepared to make this same commitment directly.  He seemed to be avoiding saying anything.

However the Opposition has emphasised the Government’s housing commitment to build 100,000 ‘affordable’ homes in ten years.

Of course amongst other things this may depend on whether Labour stays in government for long enough to ensure they fulfil the commitment.

Source: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20171109_20171109_12

Q+A – Adams v Twford on housing

 

Housing is a major issue for this election. Q+A has another debate between Amy Adams and Phil Twyford.

 

This rehashed the same old housing issues and I doubt whether it changed much in the debate.

Adams tried to emphasise things that are being done by the Government to alleviate a serious housing issue, and tried to divert from the problems that National were too slow to react to.

Twyford repeated his usual one lines, a number of which are blatantly misleading, and lacked in details about how Labour would deal with it. He said the problem was ‘simple’, which is nonsense.

Labour’s capital gains tax plans

Labour’s campaign plans for a Capital Gains Tax seems to be to say how bad a lack of a CGT is, but not admit the intention to introduce one once they are leading government.

Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford on The Nation:

Lisa Owen: So is it Labour’s goal to get it down to that – about four times?

Phil Twyford: We want to stabilise the housing market and stop these ridiculous, year on year, capital gains that have made housing unaffordable for a whole generation of young Kiwis.

Lisa Owen: But in essence, you’re going to drop the value of houses, if you want them to be four times the price of the average income.

Phil Twyford: Well, we’re going to build through KiwiBuild. We’re going to 100,000 affordable homes.

Lisa Owen: I want to come to KiwiBuild in a moment. I just want to talk to you about the price.

Phil Twyford: That will make housing affordable for young Kiwi families. That’s our policy.

Lisa Owen: Well, do you need a capital gains tax to get that threshold down to where you would want it to be?

Phil Twyford: Well, we are going to shift the goalposts by taxing speculators. So under our plan, if a speculator sells within five years—

Lisa Owen: Yeah, that’s the bright-line. I am asking you about capital gains – a bit of a sensitive issue for Labour.

Phil Twyford: Not a sensitive issue at all.

Lisa Owen: So do you think we need a capital gains—?

Phil Twyford: If a speculator sells a rental property within five years, they will pay income tax on the capital gain.

Twyford keeps referring to taxing speculators. He must know that speculators and property developers who by and sell property with the intention of making a capital gain are taxed now.

From Inland Revenue “If you’re selling a residential property and one of your intentions when you bought the property was to sell it, then you’ll have tax to pay on any profit you make from its resale.” – http://www.ird.govt.nz/property/property-selling/selling-property.html

The bright line test (currently two years, Labour say they will increase it to five years) just makes it easier for IRD to enforce taxing capital gains.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, we know about the bright-line. What we don’t know about is a capital gains tax. So do you think that you need a capital gains tax to get house prices down to the ratios that you think are right?

Phil Twyford: Well, we think comprehensive tax reform is overdue in this country, not only to tilt the playing field away from real estate speculation

Lisa Owen: Last chance – capital gains tax?

Amy Adams: Answer the question, Phil.

Phil Twyford: In the first three years, we’re going to do a tax working group that will redesign the entire tax system.

So Labour are campaigning on “redesign the entire tax system” but generally avoid saying whether their intention is to include a more comprehensive capital gains tax.

The lack of pre-election clarity on Labour’s CGT intentions continued on Q+A yesterday. Grant Robertson repeated how ‘transparent’ Labour has been, and said Labour “won’t shy away from hard decisions”, but refused to be transparent about their intended decisions on a CGT.

Grant Robertson: It’s also about cracking down on speculators. We have to make sure that if someone’s flipping their third or fourth property within five years of of buying it then they’ll pay tax on that.

I would be very surprised if that example wasn’t already covered by current tax law and  IRD now. See Property tax decision tree – Is your property sale taxable? “To work out if the property you are buying or selling is taxable”.

Grant Robertson: “We’re saying that we’ve got to take some action both in terms of cracking down on speculators, building more affordable homes, and we will get better balance in our housing market.

Corin Dann: A capital gains tax. You need to clear up for us what exactly is the position here, because it’s, what’s going? Is there going to be a capital gains tax within side the next three years if you’re elected.

Grant Robertson: So we’ve been absolutely clear. We’re going to this election with a policy that says that if you sell off an investment property, not your family home, within five years, you will pay tax on that. That’s building on a form of capital gains tax that Steven’s government’s introduced.

What we’ve then said, and I’ve been saying since 2015, is that we will have a working group that will look at getting a better balance into our tax system, between how we tax assets, and how we tax income.

Labour wants ‘a better balance’ – that is, a change.

Corin Dann: Would you seek a mandate for that capital gains tax?

Grant Robertson: Just as the working group that Steven had in 2010, didn’t go back to the election and then increased GST, which he’d campaigned against, we will look at the outcomes of that.

It seems clear that Labour has intentions to introduce a more comprehensive CGT if elected (if the working group they appoint recommends it), before the 2020 election.

Corin Dann: That’s a change from Andrew Little.

Grant Robertson: It is a change from Andrew Little.

A significant change. In 2015 Little told The Nation: “Well, we won’t introduce it in our first term, and we won’t introduce any change that significant to the tax system, any material change to the tax system, without going to the people first and getting a mandate to do so.”

Grant Robertson: Let me be absolutely clear about this. We have a housing crisis. We’re not going to sit on our hands for years, the first term of government and not do anything about that. I want the experts to talk to us about that.

Steven, is it right at the moment that someone who goes to work every day, pays tax on every cent of their income, that someone who flips a property after owning it for three years doesn’t tax on that property?

Steven Joyce: Well actually…that’s actually taxed now. So there’s the news for you Grant, if someone actually buys a house, gets an income…

Grant Robertson: Why did you put a bright line test on it then?

See Govt to tighten tax on capital gains (RNZ)  on the budget announced in May- “Capital gains on residential properties bought and sold within two years will soon be taxed by the Government. Unlike the current regime, the new test will not rely on proving a seller’s intent to make a capital gain.”

Steven Joyce: That’s the absolute minimum, under the New Zealand law right now if you’re buying and selling houses for profit you must pay tax.

You know that’s not happening…

Steven Joyce: Well actually it is happening now, that’s the truth, if you go and have a look at Inland Revenue that’s the case.

But coming back to your point. So you’re saying a capital gains tax, is that on unearned capital gains? So when the value of somebody’s business goes up, or somebody’s farm goes up, this us why you don’t want to talk about it…

Grant Robertson: This is why we’re doing a working group.

Steven Joyce: I get that. So that’s why you don’t want to talk about it.

Grant Robertson: This is why…because we’re not going to shy away from the tough challenges.

Steven Joyce: So it could be on the business.

Grant Robertson: We’ve been absolutely clear. If we ever put a capital gains tax on it would not apply to the family home, but right around the world people do this to stop speculators in the housing market.

Turning to Joyce.

Corin Dann: Is it an equity issue, is it a fairness issue? People have made an enormous amount on capital, and income earners, the vast bulk of the population who are earning wages are not seeing anywhere near the gains of capital.

Steven Joyce: In terms of capital gains tax the answer to that question is it depends on what it is. If it’s an unearned capital gain, which is actually what a comprehensive capital gains tax is, ie if your house price goes up in value the tax man sends you a bill, or if it’s your business goes up in value the Tax man sends you a bill, or if your farm goes up in value the tax man sends you, that’s what a capital gains tax is about, that you get taxed on capital gains.

Corin Dann: So how is it that the OECD, the IMF, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, just about every mainstream economic organisation you can think of says New Zealand has needed a capital gains tax for years.

Steven Joyce: Yeah but they want it on the family home. That’s what they want.These are the theoreticians saying tax the family home, and tax them on the unearned capital gain every year, so you should get a bill at the end of the year, if your house has gone up a hundred thousand dollars you should get a bill for thirty thousand dollars or whatever your tax rate is for that unearned capital gain.

That’s never going to fly, Grant’s acknowledged that, but what he isn’t telling people…

Grant Robertson: exactly because we’re not proposing that.

Even if Labour’s working group recommends it.

Steven Joyce: …he’s not telling people whether it would go on their business or on their farm or on their second house…

Corin Dann: Well lets clear that up because it will come up.

Grant Robertson: What we want to do is to address the fact that we’ve got a huge imbalance in our tax system between hardworking people who go to work every day and pay their taxes and people who are speculating in the property market who don’t. We’re going to get the experts in. We’ve been transparent about this…

Steven Joyce: Have you ruled out small businesses?

Steven Joyce: Are you going to rule out small businesses?

Grant Robertson: …we’ve been transparent about this from the very beginning. In 2015 I announced that we were going to be having this working group. What we’re not prepared to do is shy away from hard issues, and that’s what Steven and his Government have done for nine years.

Steven Joyce: Are you saying that you won’t be taxing small businesses on their capital gains?

Grant Robertson: We are focussed on the speculation in the housing market.

Steven Joyce: Is that saying you won’t…

Grant Robertson: We’re focussed…because I actually want to listen to the experts

Steven Joyce: …so you won’t do farms?

Grant Robertson: I don’t want to shy away from these tough issues…

Steven Joyce: …will you do capital gains on farms?

Grant Robertson: This is about speculation in the housing market.

Steven Joyce: No I don’t think it is, because he’s refusing to rule it out.

 

 

Robertson keeps pushing for tax on property speculation, which is already taxable, but keeps refusing to say whether they will widen tax to capital gains on businesses.

Despite Roberton’s assertions that Labour is being transparent and won’t shy away from ‘the hard issues they are very shy about saying what sort of capital gains tax they want to introduce next term if they are in government.

I expect this to keep coming up through the campaign. Jacinda Ardern will need to be well prepared on this or Bill English will hammer her and Labour on CGT.

 

‘Homelessness’ and inadequate housing

‘Homelessness’ has been a hot topic over the last few months, but a lot of political rhetoric gets in the way of an accurate picture. There is a significant difference between homelessness and inadequate housing, but the two are often combined as one problem.

Stuff:  Government ‘failing in most basic duty’ as 24,000 Aucklanders homeless, Labour claims

Labour has hit out at National over rates of homelessness, claiming it is failing in the basic duty of a government.

The allegations come after Auckland Council’s Homelessness Policy Project estimated 24,000 people in the region did not have adequate housing.

Phil Twyford, Labour’s housing spokesman, said the level of homelessness seen in parts of the country used to be something only seen in the United States or Europe.

“After nine years, National’s failure to address the housing crisis means we can no longer we pride ourselves on not leaving Kiwis on the streets.”

This appears disingenuous of Twyford.

Auckland Council’s Homelessness Policy Project, released on Wednesday, showed there were 20,296 people without a house in Auckland in 2013, according to census data.

SO the report is based on four year old data. They problem may well be worse by now, but the report can only guess at that.

Of those, 16,350 were sharing and couch surfing with others temporarily, 3175 were in temporary accommodation such as emergency housing, refugee camps and boarding houses, and 771 were sleeping rough.

Of the “20,296 people without a house” most of them, about three quarters of them, were living in something like a house.

Another 3175 were also accommodated, albeit temporarily. For many that will be inadequate, but they are still ‘housed’.

771 sleeping rough – actually homeless – is a lot, but it is nowhere near 20,000.

Some people choose to sleep rough. I have at times. It didn’t bother me, it was always temporary and I had other options – including staying temporarily with others – but technically I was ‘homeless’ at times.

For some people couch surfing is by choice, especially when travelling. A proportion of couch surfers will be tourists or temporary visitors, as will be some of those house sharing. Technically I’m house sharing with a family at the moment, and have been for over a year, but it’s not inadequate housing, we have the space for it.

But this may be just quibbling over some of the numbers. Except that it’s a pretty big quibble when Twyford refers to those in the ‘inadequate housing’ category as homeless. He is blatantly exaggerating.

There are real problems with housing that are a major concern.

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly said homeless people had a life expectancy that was about 20 years lower than the average life expectancy.

“One person dying on our streets or as a result of homelessness is one too many.”

Farrelly said the deaths of rough sleepers were due to myriad issues such as health problems, poor nutrition and continued exposure to the elements.

“We’ve had some very wet, cold nights in the winter so far and it is heartbreaking to think of people sleeping outside in these conditions.”

Another Labour MP trying to address housing problems – MP camps out to protest pair’s plight

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has accused the Ministry of Social Development of the ”character assassination” of two homeless Dunedin women, one of whom is pregnant.

Ms Curran is advocating for Kylie Taggart (30) and Amy Stuart (25), who are receiving emergency accommodation in motels.

Ms Curran slept in the Octagon last night in a tent to protest the women’s situation. She said she would sleep there every night until the women had a place to live.

Ms Curran said a lack of state housing and suitable short-term accommodation in Dunedin meant the ministry was relying on motels.

Each week, Miss Taggart and Miss Stuart must reapply for emergency accommodation.

Miss Taggart said she went into early labour last week and was admitted to hospital to be stabilised. She believes the stress of her situation was the cause. She is 26 weeks pregnant and has two other children in her care, while Miss Stuart has a 3-year-old daughter.

Both say they are trying hard to comply with the rules but feel harassed and belittled by Work and Income.

They were doing their best to provide a stable environment for their children in difficult circumstances.

But as is often the case this isn’t a simple story.

The Ministry of Social Development issued a statement on Friday that appeared to blame the women.

”We have been supporting both these mums with emergency housing special needs grants to ensure that they are not forced to sleep rough.

”They didn’t need to pay this money back; the priority was responding to an emergency need.

”One of the challenges we face is when clients repeatedly exhibit behaviour that makes them unattractive to landlords and many motel owners.

”What is really unfortunate is when the behaviour of some people not only affects them, but everyone in need. ‘In this case there is now two motels in Dunedin that are not willing to take any client referred by Work and Income.

”As a result the support now provided to both these women will need to be repaid,” the statement says.

Ms Curran said the women deny claims of antisocial behaviour.

But from a report on RNZ: Dunedin MP camps out in Octagon to highlight homelessness

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show landlords have taken the two women to the tenancy tribunal six times for not paying rent and damaging property.

The Social Development Ministry said it had not given up on the women, and that they had a high priority rating, but were difficult to house.

Ms Curran said the two women were forced into emergency accommodation because they have spent time in women’s refuges.

So it sounds like partners have been a part of the problem.

But it also sounds like the women have not been model tenants either.

RNZ: In a statement a short time ago the Ministry of Social Development says the two women have a high priority rating, but because they’ve repeatedly exhibited unattractive antisocial behaviour to both landlords and hotel owners, it’s been difficult to find them permanent accommodation in Dunedin.

And the Ministry’s Southern Regional Commissioner says “Following events overnight yet another motel is not willing to house one of the women, and only late today a short term alternative was found.”

“The people we work with often have a number of hurdles to overcome, and many lead chaotic lives.”

Money is obviously a major issue, but some people been put in bad situations, or have put themselves in bad situations, making accommodation difficult.

Difficult situations for some people for sure, but finding long term solutions can also be difficult.

Politicians overstating statistics doesn’t help, although I think credit is due to Curran for what she is trying to do.

Labour versus “slum boarding houses”

Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says that Labour will get tough on slum boarding houses but is vague on details.

The next Labour-led Government will legislate a Warrant of Fitness based on tough minimum standards to clean out slum boarding houses, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.

“It’s not acceptable for New Zealanders in the 21st Century to be living in the kind of rat-infested dumps that have been exposed in recent media reports.

“National has had nine years to fix these problems and they’re still denying there’s a housing crisis.

“Too many of our most vulnerable people are being exploited by slum boarding house operators, in dangerous and unsanitary conditions.

“The country’s had enough of Nick Smith’s tinkering and excuses.

“Labour will legislate tough minimum standards and a licensing regime that will weed out rogue operators. We’ll also mandate local government’s enforcement role, to be funded by the licensing system.

“Labour will take the first crucial steps to fix the housing crisis. But, cleaning up slum boarding houses is long overdue and will be an immediate priority,” says Phil Twyford.

This sounds like it may be jumping on a bandwagon from an item on The Nation yesterday – Boarding house horrors:

A housing shortage means more people are turning to boarding houses for accommodation, but as Caitlin McGee discovers, experts say rogue landlords are using the desperation of tenants and a lack of regulation to exploit vulnerable people.

Twyford gave no link to Labour policies on this and there is no mention in Our plan to start fixing the housing crisis.

Twyford is short on some key details, like what will happen to landlords who don’t meet ‘warrant of fitness’ requirements, and what will happen to residents who have to find somewhere else to live.

I have found a press release from Andrew Little:  Healthy homes for all

Next week on May 4, National MPs will get the chance to ensure every rental home in New Zealand is warm and dry – by supporting my Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2).

It is aimed at preventing any more cases like Emma-Lita’s, setting strict guidelines around insulation and heating which all landlords must comply with before they can legally rent out their properties.

It’s about doing what an increasingly callous government has failed to do with its continued protection of slum landlords rather than looking after those in need. And it’s not just our most vulnerable – more middle New Zealand families are renting, locked out of the housing market by soaring prices.

A previous Labour Bill that would have ensured every rental home was warm and dry was rejected by the Government last year. Housing Minister Nick Smith argues he’s doing all that’s needed to improve the “deplorable” state of rentals.

Not so. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill requires rental homes to be retrofitted with ceiling and underfloor insulation.  It comes into effect in July for state houses, but not until 2019 for other rental – read private – housing.

Nick Smith believes his Bill is a pragmatic and efficient option to the problem, and that alternatives are too expensive and will not prove to be beneficial.

But hang on. There is nothing in it about minimum standards of heating. A 2014 Household Income Report shows the majority of kids living in poverty live in private rentals. Those are the families who can least afford to heat their homes.

National has accepted the need to regulate private rental properties by requiring insulation. When temperatures plummet insulation only isn’t going to keep you warm. Why not finish the job and require efficient heating too?

No child, no pensioner, no struggling uni student, no New Zealander, should be living in a hovel. Sadly, some are.

It’s inexcusable in this day and age to be renting out something that is so poorly maintained that it becomes a health hazard.

The Government has the opportunity to do something about that come May 4, by supporting my Bill.

I presume this Member’s bill failed. I also presume this is something like what Twyford was referring to.