There is a housing crisis in Aotearoa-New Zealand. House prices are too high for too many New Zealanders, lower-income as well as middle-income families.
The government cites a lack of land as the primary reason housing is unaffordable for so many. But the government’s solution, to sell off state-owned land and deregulate the building industry won’t help lower-income families and individuals who are nowhere near able to afford market-rate rentals.
It at a time of high unemployment, low wages, and harsher and more punitive austerity cuts that we need our social housing system to be strengthened, not attacked.
We have a long history of social housing, but also of gentrification. Generations of New Zealanders fought hard for public housing: many of those in state homes today are World War II veterans who were promised state homes for life. But for decades, from Ponsonby and Parnell, to today in Glen Innes, the rich have tried to privatize state-owned housing for their own profit.
In Glen Innes we are seeing the ramifications of the government’s $50 million ‘rejuvenation’ of Talbot Park. It was hoped to be “the future of social housing” but has since received criticisms that have not been taken into account by the government or council’s future plans for GI. Samantha Hoffmann writes, “the predominant focus on physical renewal […] is a matter of targeting the effects rather than the structural causes of socio-economic deprivation”. If there is not a wider “approach across a range of areas and agencies such as health, education and employment”, any gains from the huge investment into Talbot Park will be lost “as the physical improvements begin to age.”
The call to ‘Defend GI’ and the escalating protests over the last year have been in response to a new attack on the GI community. In September 2011, tenants in 156 state homes received letters telling them they would be evicted from their homes with no guarantee or right of return to the community. Many of those residents had lived in Glen Innes for decades and raised children there. The Tamaki Housing Group was formed to resist the evictions.
In the last six months, contractors have been ripping houses from their roots and moving them by truck to be sold. These removals, or ‘thefts’ as many see them, are accompanied by scores of police and several paddy wagons and police cars every week. It is obvious the GI community does not want these houses taken or families evicted, and that the only reason Housing New Zealand is able to continue the process is by employing the police force and wasting huge amounts of taxpayers’ money. As GI residents and supporters picket the houses every week, and are brutally attacked by police ending in broken bones and concussions, it becomes clear: this really is the army of the rich.