Why Nearly 1% of New Zealanders Are Homeless

Who Owns New Zealand Now?

Bryan Bruce (2017)

Film Review

At present, New Zealand has the worst rate of homelessness in the OECD. In 2016, 41,000 Kiwis (nearly 1%) were homeless. Half of this number were families with children. This documentary examines the forces behind New Zealand’s homeless epidemic and potential solutions.

The film is highly critical of the neoliberal reforms in the 1980s that transformed New Zealand from a regulated economy to a so-called “market” economy, leading to low wages and soaring inequality. However it focuses mainly on the role of foreign investors, who have driven up housing costs by speculating in New Zealand real estate. Because the government no longer keeps data on the New Zealand property sold to overseas buyers, filmmakers had to go to researchers at the University of British Columbia to get a rough idea about the extent of foreign investment in New Zealand real estate.

As for potential solutions, Who Owns New Zealand Now suggests bringing back the State Advances loan program, (operating in New Zealand from the the early 1930s to the late 1960s), in which the government issued money directly (rather than borrowing it from banks) that Kiwis could borrow to purchase homes. It also examines measures other countries have adopted to discourage foreign speculators from driving up housing costs.

First and foremost the government needs to keep good data on New Zealand real estate being sold offshore. Secondly they need to discourage foreign real estate sales either by implementing a foreign buyers surtax, as Hong Kong and British Columbia do, or charging all buyers a stamp duty tax, as Australia, Canada and the UK do, and/or a capital gains tax when real estate is sold.

Among other reforms advocated in the documentary are a greater restriction in immigration levels, a return to state-funded mortgages and increased government support for cooperative housing, long term lease rentals, construction of smaller, more affordable, family friendly homes and most importantly a living wage for all Kiwis.

Owing to the failure of “the market” to accommodate their housing needs, at present approximately 1/3 of the New Zealand population requires state supported housing.

Co-housing: One Solution to the Housing Crisis

Big Cities Cooperative Housing

KCET (2016)

Big Cities Cooperative Housing is a short documentary about co-housing experiments in Seoul South Korea and Lyons France.

In Seoul, where 70% of the population live in high rise apartment buildings, three families have pooled resources to buy a three story house. In addition to communal cooking and social space, each family has private living space. There is also a communal vegetable garden.

The “vertical village in Lyon was first build in 2005 by a group of families seeking a non-materialistic lifestyle – who found themselves priced out of the property market. The first housing cooperative in France, it’s been the inspiration for many similar co-housing projects in Europe and Quebec, as well as French legal framework to recognize cooperative ownership.

In France, removal of residential property from the speculation-ridden real estate market has been an important benefit of co-housing.

The video can be viewed for free at Big Cities Cooperative Housing