You may have noticed that there is a general election coming up, and the amount of hot air increasing from all sides. Billed as the battle of the Chrises (Chris’s? Chrisis? Crisis?), I’d venture that it is a lot more serious than just a two-way stand-off of Chris H vs Chris L – its actually a Mexican stand-off with Chris B in it as well, and he is the biggest potential loose cannon in the National camp. Potentially he could be the next Minister of Quite a Lot, possibly even the Minister of Housing, Minister for Infrastructure, and the Minister of Urban Development. None of those prospects fill me with great joy. This election is going to be all about Housing to me, and there’s the rub. We have some. We need more, much more.

Another Chris

It’s now universally acknowledged that we have a Housing crisis, but we are not alone in the world for having one of those – most countries do. All over the world, in developed nations, the housing market is a wee bit stuffed up at present. Australia has a housing crisis – read this – dubbed as “…the worst housing crisis in living memory.” England has a housing crisis – read this – and they note that “The most important thing to stress is that political choices created the housing crisis.” Ireland has a different sort of housing crisis as noted here. France has a housing crisis too – read here. Clearly the problem is not one that has been created solely by Labour or by National, but by the one thing that all the world has in common : money. There is either a shortage of it (in your pocket), or there is too much of it (sloshing around in bank’s deep pockets). To quote Bill Clinton, some 30 or 40 years after it was cool to: “It’s the economy, Stupid.”

Last ever photo of Labour Ministers smiling?

So, changing the Government is hardly likely to change the Housing Crisis – unless, of course, someone does something to make it worse. And with Chris Bishop in control of Housing, that may well happen. With ACT also in the PowerPlay, it is almost guaranteed to get worse. And yet a National / ACT coalition is almost guaranteed at getting in, as it stands right now, seeing as Labour have effectively squandered their lead and massive majority, by succeeding in accomplishing virtually nothing. No Light Rail in Auckland. No light Rail in Wellington. No new hospitals anywhere, despite alleged poo running down the walls at Middlemore at the start of Labour’s reign. No new tunnels under Mt Victoria and no new Regional Railways except for Te Huia in Hamilton. Under this Labour Government, the Housing Crisis has got worse – way more worse. No one really knows why, but it has. While National were OK to let people sleep in their cars, Labour have brought them inside, to sleep in Motels, only now that has got well out of control. There are now over 3400 families in Emergency care housing, although this is down from a peak of 4900 back in January 2021 during Covid times. But there is also over 24,000 on the waiting list, which was only about 8,000 at the start of 2018 (ref Stats from MSD), and National claims the waiting list was only about 5,000 when it was last in office.

Fantasy housing in fantasy land

I’m going to quiz you all with a series of quotes, to see if you can pick out which of the following statements refer to Aotearoa, and which to other countries, right?

A) “The housing crisis is anything but a surprise. It has been predicted by industry professionals for months and now seems unavoidable.”

B) “Rising interest rates are restricting the availability of mortgages and reducing the number of potential buyers. Weak demand is beginning to weigh on prices and the fluidity of transactions.”

C) “The new-build market is in freefall, with a consequent impact on the construction industry.”

D) “This domino effect is occurring at a time when there is already a significant housing shortage. The whole chain now threatens to seize up, with households unable to access home ownership, tenants faced with a flagrant lack of supply and a social sector no longer able to fulfill its mission.”

E) “While there’s nothing surprising about the situation, what’s striking is the lack of anticipation. Who seriously believed that the period of virtually free money could go on indefinitely? The return to reality is all the more brutal given the illusion of an only gradual rise in interest rates. Inflation, in the wake of the pandemic, decided otherwise.”

F) “We need to reduce inflation, which is eroding purchasing power − but without penalizing credit, which facilitates home ownership.”

G) “We urgently need to increase the supply of housing at a time when the environmental transition is putting strict controls on construction and forcing poorly-insulated properties to be withdrawn from the rental market.” 

Hard to tell, isn’t it? Have a try – see what you think.

Rental crisis

So – Is there anything we can point to as a positive, right now? Well, despite the numbers in Emergency Housing shooting right up, there is significant increase in the number of Kainga Ora houses being built, although everyone seems to argue over the actual numbers. KO’s published data from 2023 says there is 67,099 managed state rentals, although it also notes that 4,151 are vacant. Wikipedia notes that KO has built about 7,000 since it’s inception. Does this mean that it started off with 60,000 houses already? National are, this weekend, on record as saying that they, if elected, would build 30,000 more (need a source – I think it was on the radio – is it written down anywhere?), which is a pretty bold promise seeing as they have forever been taking the piss out of Labour for promising 10,000 a year Kiwibuild for ten years, and in the last Key/English government, Blinglish was busy selling off all the housing he could. On the face of it then, it would seem that KO has been successful – and has now secured a supply of land for the next 5-10 years, but Nat’s Chris Bish has already declared that KO’s future land-buying plans will be closed down if / when he gets in and goes all Voldemort on their ass. Does that mean that, in true blue fashion, he will be selling off state housing once more?

Who knows?

Likely scenario?