As the chill of winter begins to bite, having a warm, dry house of your own to come home to takes on added significance.
With homeownership rates at their lowest in over 60 years, Paul Gilberd from the New Zealand Housing Foundation spares a thought for those who are stuck in the rental poverty trap this winter and provides an insight into what’s being done to address it.
There’s lots of talk at present about what constitutes affordable housing and what’s not. The risk is that by focusing on the market and elaborate formulas relating to a median house price we lose sight of what the story of affordable housing is really about - those families and households who live amongst us who get up and go to work each day, pay their taxes, and who cannot afford to rent or buy a home for their family. Most of these people work in relatively low paid jobs; many have more than one job.
The definition of affordable housing for these families is not some sort of fixed price that is put on the house, it is simpler than that. The definition of affordable housing for our key workers, in our city, is if they can afford it, then it is affordable.
For more than 120,000 low income working households in Auckland, today, they cannot afford to rent or buy their own place. People who work in the housing sector call this the Intermediate Market. It relates to people that are on low to middle incomes and is big thing. It is the great and rapidly widening divide between those who have secure stable tenure and their own home, and those who have not.
Most people in this space are living beyond their means, paying 40% or 50% and some more than 60% of their total gross household income (GHI) on their rent or mortgage payments. International and local evidence shows us that paying more than 30% of GHI is unsustainable and causes financial stress. That is unaffordable. We all know someone who says that no matter how hard they work they just don’t feel like they can get ahead. We all know someone desperate to get onto the first rung of the property ladder, and it is out of reach.
We believe our key service workers, our fellow Auckland citizens, our teachers, nurses, cleaners, baristas, administrators and policemen and women, deserve better. We believe they deserve safe, secure, stable and affordable housing, a place to belong and call home. Without one, we’re at a risk of losing these key people who we rely so heavily on for our society to function.
People who feel secure and stay affordably in one place, long term, connect with each other and communities grow and flourish in such places. This is why projects such as those we have delivered in partnership with other housing providers, Iwi and other stakeholders at Whakawhiti Loop in Avondale and at Waimahia in Weymouth are so important. They have become beacons of hope and evidence of success.
The problem for all of the “can’t afford to rent or buy” households, is the lack of affordable housing options. We have systemic housing market failure and it will take all of us working together to fix this massive problem which has been growing for 30 years.
What we have decided to do about this is to form partnerships, deliver more homes and help build diverse mixed communities. Last month we were proud to announce alongside Panuku Development Auckland and Mana Whenua another large-scale development project that will house up to 300 households at Kotuitui Place in Manukau. It is another step to help families on the journey to pathway from the rental poverty trap towards independent home ownership. It will be a mixed and diverse community including a broad range of homes and tenures as well as opportunities for local people to get assistance to improve their housing arrangements. It follows another Housing Foundation project in Avondale in partnership with Panuku which saw 33 new homes recently completed in Whakawhiti Loop, including 21 affordable homes for assisted home ownership
Our evidence from more than 10 years of delivering such pathway products for over 350 families in 36 communities is that it is life changing. It creates happy thriving communities and allows the individual families and their extended whanau to build better lives together.
By continuing to work with the likes of Panuku, our hope is that through the provision of more rent to buy and more shared home ownership pathways we can assist many more hardworking families with their affordable housing needs and participate in the urban and community regeneration projects across Auckland. It will make their lives and the lives of their kids better.
Affordable housing need not be the distant dream many have given up on. In partnership with local communities, Mana Whenua, council, Government and other Community Housing Providers, we believe anything is possible.
The Housing Foundation operates as a social enterprise and is a charitable trust delivering affordable housing for low income households. It also supports many other community providers whom also provide affordable housing in neighbourhoods that work for low income households. Paul Gilberd is the Foundation’s General Manager of Strategy and Development.