On Thursday, Metiria Turei announced the Green Party’s plan to start addressing the emergency housing crisis facing our country. Too many people are without homes right now – homeless. It is the role of government to ensure that everyone has a warm and safe home to live in. Our announcement outlined how Housing New Zealand would retain its dividend and tax it would normally pay out for the next financial year. This would provide an extra $207 million that would go towards an urgent build of around 450 state houses. The Greens plan would also see an immediate stop to the sell-off of state houses. We must choose to do everything we can to get people into homes.
The stories of homelessness are compelling, and should not exist. Auckland mum Rhiannon spoke at our policy launch about her difficulties in finding a home for herself and her three young children. She makes ad hoc arrangements to survive – squashing in with friends and family, placing her children with others to keep their lives as stable as possible, sleeping at the hospital when her young daughter is receiving treatment for ongoing respiratory problems. Rhiannon spoke about her efforts to provide stability in the midst of chaos. When asked by media “how do you cope?”, her answer was immediate, clear and straight:
You do what you have to. It’s just part of being a mama.
Rhiannon’s story is one of thousands. Ordinary people battling through an extraordinary crisis. I am driven by an extra need for change through all this. The people whose stories we are hearing at the moment, the people living in cars, people who live rough on the streets, the families overcrowding into already substandard housing, the grandfather who pitched a tent for himself and his mokopuna in the community garden that he cares for – they are my people, literally. John Campbell interviewed a family staying in a motel and incurring exorbitant debt because we are out of emergency housing, and I was alerted to the fact that this was my young cousin, his wife, and their babies. The garden-tent grandfather is my friend.
As a politician, I have to answer for this. We all have to answer for this. Despite Minister Nick Smith’s astounding comparison of the housing crisis to the Christchurch earthquake – this is not a natural disaster. We are now seeing the result of years of policy making that made things tougher for people already struggling to get by. Structural change got us into this mess, and structural change is needed to get us out of it.
At the launch, I stood next to Rhiannon, working hard to remain composed while she courageously told her story. This job, my job, takes its toll on being human. I am proud at the way Metiria spoke at the launch, fighting back tears, and with all the might of thousands of silenced, homeless voices while she demanded change.
Let’s get something done, shall we? There is money on the table. We can build more houses… And we can make sure that mothers have a safe place to raise their children; to keep them well; to live a decent, ordinary life. – Metiria Turei