Friday, 20 May 2016

Homes Are Where The Votes Are.

Working Class Voters' Ballot Papers At Work: A massive programme of state house construction; a graduated Land Tax; a radical and comprehensive overhaul of New Zealand’s tenancy legislation along European lines: each of these measures would lower the cost of housing dramatically. All those suffering from the worst effects of the current housing crisis, the young and the poor, have to do is vote for them.
 
NEW ZEALAND’S HOUSING SITUATION grows daily more perplexing.
 
In the country’s largest city, Auckland, the price of residential housing surges from one scarcely believable peak to the next. Neighbour’s stand open-mouthed as the sale-price of the property across the street is communicated to them in hushed tones and wide-eyed disbelief. Like the purchaser of a Lotto ticket, Auckland homeowners are mentally spending the hundreds-of-thousands of additional dollars they’re absolutely certain to win.
 
Woe betide the politician who tramples on those dreams.
 
Meanwhile, as the amount of the required deposit leaps impossibly far ahead of their ability to save such a sum, younger New Zealanders attempting to purchase their first residential property are growing increasingly desperate.
 
Woe betide the politician who tramples on those dreams.
 
The news media is calling it a housing crisis. But the advocates for state house tenants are crying foul. “How can there be a crisis,” they demand, “when hundreds of Housing NZ properties are standing empty?”
 
What’s going on?
 
The brutally simple answer is that those New Zealanders sufficiently motivated to participate in large numbers in general elections are ruthlessly enriching themselves.
 
With sufficient political will, New Zealand’s housing problems could be resolved quite quickly. To say this, however, is to beg the question of how that political will might best be summoned. A question which, in its turn, raises the perennial and deeply subversive issue of social class – and the bitter conflicts spawned when the interests of social classes clash.
 
For an excellent example of how these class conflicts get played out politically, we have only to look at the final days of the 2005 General Election Campaign.
 
The incumbent Labour Government was on the ropes, and the Don Brash-led National Party Opposition had the scent of victory in its nostrils. It was then that Labour’s campaign manager (and party president) Mike Williams sent out a last-minute letter to state house tenants. The letter warned them that, if Labour lost the election, the new National Government’s housing policies would see many of them evicted from their homes.
 
The letter had the desired effect. As Election Night 2005 drew to its close, and the counting of the ballots cast in the polling booths of the nation’s sprawling state house suburbs was completed, Labour’s tally of Party Votes surged triumphantly past National’s to secure for Helen Clark her final and most dramatic electoral victory.
 
Had those same state house tenants turned out to vote in the same numbers at the 2008, 2011 and 2014 General Elections, then John Key may never have become New Zealand’s prime minister. But they didn’t – and because they didn’t (at least in part) the policies of John Key’s National-led Government have, for the past eight years, exacted a very heavy toll on the nation’s state house tenant’s.
 
The same could be said of the nation’s younger citizens.
 
In 2005, Helen Clark (egged on by former student president, Grant Robertson) announced that Labour would be introducing interest-free student loans. With this prospect before them, scores-of-thousands of young New Zealanders made the journey to the polling-booths on Election Day to vote for the thousands-of-dollars-worth of savings Labour was promising. A significant number of their parents did the same thing – and for much the same reason! They, too, had a role to play in pushing the red line above the blue line.
 
In the 2014 General Election, however, only 49 percent of the 743,200 New Zealanders aged 18-29 years bothered to cast a vote. Of the 864,100 New Zealanders aged 60 years and over (they’re the ones with the houses) the participation rate was 87 percent! The young people struggling to buy their first home in 2016 should, perhaps, consider how much more attention politicians would pay to their housing needs after 2017, if 87 percent of them turned out to vote.
 
At the moment, middle-class Kiwis (especially those living in Auckland) are doing amazingly well out of John Key’s government’s housing policies. With the thumb of unprecedented immigration numbers pressing down on the demand side of the scales, and the supply side embarrassingly light on available residential properties, existing home-owners are laughing all the way to the banks – who are only too happy to lend them the money for a second, third or fourth house.
 
It’s not difficult to guess which party these folks will be voting for next year.
 
Nor should it be difficult for Labour, the Greens and NZ First to work out what they need to offer young and poor voters in 2017.
 
A massive programme of state house construction; a graduated Land Tax; a radical and comprehensive overhaul of New Zealand’s tenancy legislation along European lines: each of these measures would lower the cost of housing dramatically.
 
All the young and the poor have to do is vote for them.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 3 May 2016.

32 comments:

Stephen Keys said...

There is no John A Lee in either National or Labour these days to bulldose a state house building policy through cabinet (even if they wanted to) The means are there to build low cost 100m2 3 brm homes again but not the political will to provide the land and legislative and financial support. Public credit and compulsory acquisition of urban fringe land at rural prices would do the trick
https://unframednz.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/1935-labour-fletchers-and-state-houses/

Stephen Keys said...

Can't remember which country it was but they update electoral enrolment when you register your car. Removes one barrier on Election Day.

Patricia said...

Yes, that is true Chris but all those wins were a result of a one off bribes. I think what is wanted is something to improve the well being of all. The current taxation structure, as it is, creates much hardship for many and prosperity for a few. My suggestion is let's just abolish the existing tax structure and start again. No income tax, no corporate tax, no fringe benefit tax, no exemptions of any sort, no payroll tax, no GST. Nothing. Then put a financial transaction tax on all deposits, double the rate if the money is sent overseas – the rebuttable presumption being that it is done to avoid taxation. Then everybody, individual and company, would be contributing to the running of the country they either live in or in which a business is active. As the aim is to have cash become obsolete the FTT would be easily administered. It would be collected by the Banks on behalf of the Government. If there was too much money in the system then the FTT could be increased and vice versa.
If a country elected a Government that put its people first then it would also have a progressive inequality tax on incomes over X times the average wage with an inflation adjustment for tax bracket creep. The government could then work out a policy how to better the country as a whole with all that tax money. And it would be enormous. Think of fast rail first of all from Whangarei to Hamilton and then from Pegasus to Timaru. That would fix house prices! A UBI might even be very possible.
But if the elected Government wasn't interested in the welfare of its people then the Country would not have an inequality tax. Everything would be so very transparent.
Surely a FTT would be better than the nonsense we have now throughout the western world.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Great idea Chris, but it won't work because:
1. As you say many people in Auckland are doing really well from their investment in property, and they vote National.
2. No one in Labour has the imagination of a louse.

Brendon Harre said...

Since 2008 Auckland house prices have risen by $150 billion dollars (400,000 houses multiplied by an increase in median values of $370,000).

It is not hard to see who is benefiting and who is not from this.

All it takes is political will to even up the balance.

peter petterson said...

Yes an extra 3-4 seats will make a difference and competition for the Maori Party in Maoridom could see the end of them.

Tiger Mountain said...

the housing bubble is a monster that now has to be let down slowly, if it were popped by immediate imposition of capital gains tax, rent control, stopping accomodation supplement to private owners and banning foreign sales; there would be painful negative equity scenarios and property portfolios would become no more than bird cage liners

part of me would be happy for the smug tories and aspirational others sucked into the neo liberal opium dream to take a bath and SUFFER like the underclass and those of us that like to think we have some decency left, but NZ society is so closely balanced between the doing ok voters, the poorer voters with ‘last place aversion’ and the alienated non voters that there is not the good will or political analysis to cope with a major upheaval, a 21st century shock the equivalent of Rogernomics

markus/swordfish said...

Clark Govt should have brought in Compulsory Voting while they had the chance.

Appears to be majority support for such a move. A late 2013 Research New Zealand Poll found 56% supported the idea / 42% against. Support was particularly strong among Older New Zealanders (64%)(who currently tend to vote Tory and, of course, have no trouble turning out in large numbers), among Maori and Pasifikas (66%) (who on both counts don't), and among the middle income (68%).

They'd be no worries about how to mobilise the 'missing million'.

Anonymous said...

There is only one revolutionary in this country and his name is John Key, he is leading this country to Utopia and God help those people who stand in his way.
Labour are snot and snizzle to his ambitions, scream blue heaven, shout from the rooftops, threaten and foot-stamp. Then promise more of the same. (same what?)
Green purist spew but have some who want to follow.( James your slip is showing)
Winston takes the cash, whatever, whoever.
Shakspearian sonnet, absolute truth or absolute bollocks

aberfoyle said...

Minimum waged,and casual,employed families,on call, is not that our New Zealand,of our popular John,given us this.Homeless working families,who!s progressive minimum wage on call, cannot afford the properties investors down payment to their properties lenders charge,the banks.

Patricia said...

Chris, I am feeling unloved and unwanted. Why did you but a 'bin' beside my post? There is not a 'bin' beside anyone else's post.

greywarbler said...

Keep the comments coming Tiger Mountain and markus/swordfish.
Reading intelligent thoughtful stuff as from Chris Trotter and you two, plus others I count on, is meat and drink to me. You all keep me hopeful that there will be a way out of the maze we are in, without having to go to the magical extremes when young Harry Potter faced death from Voldermoort (we have neo liberal quislings), only escaping with his expired friend by the skin of his teeth.

At present much of our society is living in a dream-like state, and some of us must stay grounded or the country will end up like Venezuela, the plight of which country was discussed this Saturday morning on RadioNZ.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Patricia.

Please be assured, I did not write anything next to your post. Gremlins in the system, perhaps?

manfred said...

A Labour MP was talking about Kiwibuild on his facebook page a couple of months ago, as if it was still Labour policy. Interpret that as you will.

Yes we need to build more state houses, but an aspiration of many youth is to have a home of their own. State houses may be sold by a future government or allowed to become run down.

Kiwibuild was one Labour's better policies last election, lets hope they are still committed to it.

I don't think home ownership is incompatible with social democratic principles.

I looked at the Green Party website and they simply say that they will build 450 new state houses - to use a millennial expression, WTF?

Kevin Fleming said...

I built my first house in 1963 with a State Advances loan taken over 30 years.At the time that loan was sufficient to build a home and was about 3 years of my earnings me being a mental health nurse on penal rates and lots of overtime.How things have changed both for young people being housed and rightful penal time and OT at either 1.5 or double time.
My point has always been if it worked well then why can't it work now??
If say govt borrowed a specific fund for housing,say 10b and set it to work as cheap housing loans which borrowers immediately start repaying surely it becomes self funding? However for me I would be advocating standard houses not posh show pieces.If you want those,you pay for them.The average home back then was a 3br 1000sq feet( whatever that is in modern lingo)and 10s of 1000s of us were perfectly happily housed in them.I accept though that subdivision costs are way too high but for my dream of housing government should undertake that.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Patricia. There is a bin beside your post in case you want to delete it. You are the only person allowed to delete it, which is why there is not a bin that is to anyone else's posts. On my computer, there is a bin next to my post rather than yours. Hope this clears it up.

Anonymous said...

According to Colmar Brunton. 18% want more migrants, 27% less, 51% about the same and 4% don't know.
The establishment needs these results for it's survival.
A 3 News Reid Research poll had 65% saying immigration should be reduced (should there be "greater restrictions") including 85% of NZ First voters. This poll said 42% of NZ First voters want numbers reduced.
We have systems to counter electrol fraud as it is well known people are likely to cheat (given half a chance) but who checks these results. The payload is vitally important. It is like two armies facing each other and one has the power to present a false picture of the relative size of the other. The BBC has admitted bias. Are we to believe TV One is not biased and the Actiod property-construction finance sector who depend on immigration and influence government are squeeky clean?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting answer to a very simple question.
https://www.quora.com/

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"We have systems to counter electrol fraud as it is well known people are likely to cheat (given half a chance) but who checks these results."

Electoral fraud is minimal. It's just a distraction that conservatives, particularly in the US throw out to excuse the passing of laws that restrict people's right to vote. They can only ever point to one or two examples, and they are almost always conservatives.:) The rest of your post anonymous is almost incomprehensible. Not to mention possibly irrelevant – but too incomprehensible to tell

Patricia said...

Thank you BS for explaining that.

bob said...

There's a bin beside your own posts as they are the only ones you can delete.

Bushbaptist said...

@ Kevin Fleming

There is no need to borrow the money, the Govt. can simply create it. That was how the State Houses, the main roads, the Railway, and the power grid were financed. As the returns come back in the money is destroyed, if it is left in circulation then inflation is the result.It MUST be kept out of the hands of the private banks though or it will garner a huge amount of interest debt.

Nick J said...

The interesting thing about government creating credit for housing is that they also could if they wanted to hold the collateral (the houses). The provision of housing that is available enough to provide a housing surplus would check both excessive market rentals and runaway housing prices. That is political dynamite.

Unknown said...

Which bit dont you get GS?

Anonymous said...

The rest of your post anonymous is almost incomprehensible. Not to mention possibly irrelevant – but too incomprehensible to tell
..........
In the context of *opinion corridor*?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

What bit don't I get? This:

"We have systems to counter electrol fraud as it is well known people are likely to cheat (given half a chance) but who checks these results. The payload is vitally important. It is like two armies facing each other and one has the power to present a false picture of the relative size of the other. The BBC has admitted bias. Are we to believe TV One is not biased and the Actiod property-construction finance sector who depend on immigration and influence government are squeeky clean?"

A series of disconnected sentences about Christ knows what. I mean this presumably something about immigration in there, and I guess as we are discussing housing that's legitimate, that Jesus Christ I've been in jobs using the English language all my life and I've never come across such babble as sometimes happens in these columns.

And now we have the "context of opinion corridor" which I admit I had to google. Apparently it means some form of restriction of debate. I'm not restricting the bloody debate, just asking for people to write clear English. How can you have a rational discussion if people are running off at the mouth without passing it by their brain. FFS could you try reading it out loud to yourself before you post it – though Christ if it actually makes sense to you when you do, I'd be worried.

jh said...

This might help GS



REVEALED: How Bad Polling Is Used To Convince People Brexit Support Is Tanking

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/05/26/questions-raised-anomalous-brexit-polls-showing-massive-leads-remain/

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Er.... Breitbart? Really? Sorry, but I wouldn't regard anything from that source is evidence of anything. It's worse than Fox News. Or as we call it in the trade, Fox Lies. And now that I've read it, and the comments my opinion is reinforced.

jh said...

A genetic fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when a claim is accepted or rejected based on the source of the evidence, rather than on the quality or applicability of the evidence. It is also a line of reasoning in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim or thing itself. The fallacy is committed when an idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

True enough, that is a genetic fallacy. But with time at a premium I can't read every source on everything. So I usually restrict myself to sources which don't lie. On the other hand:http://www.businessinsider.com.au/yougovs-polling-methods-were-flawed-2016-5?r=UK&IR=T

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Dammit I accidentally hit the post button. I should also have added, that it's not so much that they are necessarily wrong. But that they would emphasise what suited them. So some polls are bad? So what? So are others pointing in a different direction as I point out in my link. I'm still not quite sure of your point, beyond the possible point that polls are sometimes used to influence public opinion rather than reflect it. You'd have to be an idiot not to know this.

jh said...

I'm skeptical about the land supply argument so i have been looking into Atlanta. If a place gets desireable people are attracted and prices rise. Sprawl is a negative (even if it delivers affordable housing) so can never become desireable.
I came across this (Wyoming), it is highly relevant to Queenstown
http://www.curbed.com/2016/7/6/12101006/jackson-hole-real-estate-tourism