When my parents first visited me in Auckland ten years ago, they remarked on how there were no homeless people on the streets. Coming from Los Angeles, they were used to seeing the impacts of horrendous inequality and a lack of a social safety net: people living under bridges, in cardboard boxes, people who may have been bankrupted due to healthcare costs.
They thought it was wonderful that homelessness was so unusual in New Zealand, because we had a social safety net and provided homes and shelters for people in need.
When they came to visit this year, they couldn’t believe how much things have changed.
After eight years of a National Government, the ongoing housing crisis, and the two speed economy that is leaving the most vulnerable behind, a growing number of people are without homes – left with no choice but sleeping on the streets or living in cars.
The budget today should be addressing both the housing crisis and growing inequality. It should be upholding the core value of New Zealanders – fairness.
A fairer tax system would tax the capital gains from investment property, just as any other income is taxed. This would help reduce growing concentration of wealth in a smaller and smaller group of people, and it would mean that more homes are available to first home buyers.
This budget could introduce proper protection for renters, including security of tenure and a warrant of fitness for rental properties. Every child should be able to live in a warm, dry, secure home – even if their parents rent.
Most importantly, this budget should invest more money in building state houses. If we have a supply shortage, the government needs to step in and fill the gap. State houses per capita have declined considerably over the past few decades. If we don’t something about it, more people will be on the streets or in cars. Build more houses, you can end homelessness. It’s that simple.
This budget could make real strides by putting a tax on climate pollution, and return the revenue to families from the bottom, again making our tax system fairer and helping us shift to greener jobs and energy.
This budget could introduce much more logical investment in transport projects, which would not only result in safer roads and cheaper transport, but also a massive reduction in climate pollution.
The National Government keeps giving us excuses about why we can’t afford to solve the housing crisis, why we can’t take action on climate change, why we can’t protect our rivers or get kids out of poverty.
The truth is we can do all of these things. In fact, we must!