The unwritten laws of housing affordability

“There used to be a sort of unwritten law that a man should give a day’s pay for a week’s rent, but that cannot be done now.” – Alfred Washer, House and Land Agent, 1912 One hundred years on, there are a few familiar aspects of Alfred Washer’s thoughts on  housing affordability, which he related to…More

Building houses for poor people in 1912 and 2012

The New Zealand Government was concerned about the cost of living/housing, and directed Commissions to investigate the issue. One of the conclusions of both Commissions, a century apart, are remarkably similar. Industry does not build housing for “working-men” (1912 language) or the “lower quartiles” (2012 language). One real estate agent told the Royal Commission on the…More

Activism for state housing

The government’s plans to sell state housing to community housing providers only come as a surprise to some. As Alan Johnson from CPAG has pointed out, the government was talking about this long before the election, but for some reason the MPs were rarely asked about it. Perhaps it’s attaching a specific number to the sales that…More

What Dunedin students and Buenos Aires tenement dwellers have in common

Life was hard for renters in Buenos Aires in the early twentieth century. Tenants lived in poorly ventilated, crowded, noisy rooms, with few facilities and high rents. The poor conditions prompted 120,000 renters in 740 tenements to go on rent strike in 1907. There’s a nice detail in Baer and Wood’s article about the rent…More

The (lack of) evidence to support stock transfer

The government’s policy on the transfer or sale of state housing to community housing organisations is getting a lot of attention lately (I wrote about the end-of-this-era here back in May). I voiced some of my own concern in a submission to select committee [pdf] when the legislation that set up this system was passed- the…More

Life in severe housing deprivation in New Zealand

There’s a lot in the news about housing this week. But the story that I read this week that I keep thinking about is the one on a coroner’s report. The tragic event of a baby’s death provides a shocking insight into the conditions a family can live in in New Zealand. At the time…More

The fantasy where the landlord leaves you the house

The fantasy where the landlord leaves you the house is not so different from any inheritance or lottery-winning fantasy, except it is that much more tangible. You can see it all around you. You sit around after dinner and think about what could be: “If the landlord left us the house, we would put in…More

Vote for renters tomorrow

Housing affordability is a big concern for many voters this election. Many people worry about the young not being able to buy a house. Most political parties respond to that concern, offering policies aimed at making it easier to buy a home.* But the focus on home-ownership means that more urgent issues of housing affordability…More

“It should be bowled”

The Southland Times published an article recently that tells the story of three sets of renters in the same terrible house in Invercargill. It’s an interesting piece because it sums up a lot of the issues with our private rental market. Each tenant was made sick by their home, but was unable to address the…More

Plans for Glen Innes

I’m excited that Briar March’s new documentary is coming out soon. She’s a fantastic director – probably best known for There Once Was An Island, which won a heap of prizes – and this time, she’s looking at a topic dear to my heart: the redevelopment of Glen Innes. The documentary is called Whare Tapu Wha. It’s showing…More