I started writing this blog while sitting in the Tenancy Tribunal hearing for the eviction of Ioela Rauti – Niki, as she is also known. I was there to support an elderly ailing woman who is at the sharp end of what is essentially a sell-off of our public assets.
Niki is a state house tenant. Niki has paid her rent on time every week for 21 years. She has cared for her humble home lovingly while the state landlord has let too many homes crumble and rot. She has been issued with a 90-day eviction notice as part of the Tamaki Redevelopment Company (TRC) project, which is in effect selling off huge parcels of Crown land to developers after the state houses on them have been removed and demolished.
Niki represents a community of people who feel that they have been shunted around as if they are of little consequence. They have stayed defiant because they can see through the rhetoric that the redevelopment of their neighbourhood is about helping the locals and doing up old houses. In fact, the redevelopment is benefitting wealthy developers and property investors who get to dally around with a small bit of social housing on the side so they can justify their land grab.
The plan to redevelop Tāmaki does not have the support of the very people it is supposed to be helping. A 2014 Metro magazine article stated that “there was anger and disbelief” about the redevelopment proposal, with local resident Tere Tarapu saying “I don’t want to move. To me, this is my home”. His wife Miimetua stated: “They didn’t even come and see us before they have this on their plan”. Another local, Lilo Tai, whose extended family have lived there for 20 years, said: “I feel they are treating us as rubbish.”
Many of the affected state house tenants are ailing or elderly. Some have passed on since they were first faced with the redevelopment plan. Their final days were spent campaigning to be treated with respect and dignity.
Just who is the Tāmaki redevelopment really benefitting?
While the development has been able to rebuild warmer, dryer, more modern units – they are not increasing the number of state or social houses. 2,800 homes that were previously state houses were transferred to the redevelopment agency. 2,800 units will be replaced but will use up 30% of the original land. The leftover 70% of that land will be used for the private market.
That same market has seen these new houses being advertised for around the million dollar mark, essentially out of reach for most people let alone the people who have made Glen Innes their home for generations. I heard just yesterday of one new house, built on the site of an older state house in northern Glen Innes, selling for $1.4 million.
The National government did not just let the housing crisis happen. Their policy settings have designed the shortage of affordable, state, and social housing. Through its tax policy, this government has encouraged the use of houses for business investment instead of for living in as homes. This has helped put both rents and mortgages out of reach for too many people, in a way this country has not seen before. This is the housing crisis.
I am supporting Niki because I have followed the TRC project since it began in 2011. I have stood on the streets of Glen Innes with my children to bear witness to blockades of the trucks that came to remove the homes. Scores of police, protected by scores of police. I have a connection to the Tamaki community through my ongoing participation in river clean-ups, tree plantings, community performances and events.
Niki is asking us to look deeper and ask ourselves questions.
Is this reassignment of public assets going to overwhelmingly benefit the community where it is taking place? And have we taken the community respectfully along with these visions?
I do not think we have got the approach right under this model of redevelopment. The ratio of state, social, and affordable homes to new million dollar houses is not fair or right.
So I will continue to advocate for Niki.