New Zealand Tackles a Surge in Homelessness

New Zealand is known to many outsiders as a beautiful, affluent country, the place where the Lord of the Rings movies were made. But Joseph Takairangi and thousands of others know it better for the expensive housing that lies far out of their reach. Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for The New York Times.

On a recent cool night in a misty rain, Takairangi and some of his friends were looking for somewhere to spend the night. They had decamped to a parking lot after being ejected from a stretch of takeaway food shops in Henderson, an Auckland suburb.

Soon, a speaker mounted on a wall above them crackled: “Move along, please, guys.”

New Zealand has the highest homelessness rate among the wealthy nations that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Yale University study found last year, though it noted that definitions of homelessness vary by country. Social workers here say the country’s homeless – 1 per cent of the population, according to a comprehensive study from a New Zealand university – increasingly include people with jobs.

“We need a no-fuss system to get people into houses,” Takairangi, 36, said. “There’s too much fuss.”

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said that since a “meltdown” in New Zealand’s housing market after the 2008 global financial crisis, prices in some parts of the country had doubled, rising well above where they had been before the crisis.

Auckland consistently ranks among the 10 least affordable housing markets in Demographia International’s annual global survey, which measures house prices against income.

Homelessness is the worst symptom of “a highly dysfunctional housing market,” Twyford said. He said the housing affordability problem was the worst it had been since the Great Depression.

This month the government announced it would form a new Housing and Urban Development Ministry to help deliver on that promise. It has pledged to build more public and low-cost housing, create new emergency residences, care for the long-term homeless, cut red tape around land use, offer incentives for new building and give tenants more rights.

Original article by Charlotte Graham-McLay, The New York Times, June 22, 2018.

Photo by Asanka Brendon Ratnayake.

Tags: Demographia International  homelessness  Housing and Urban Development Ministry  New York Times (The)  Phil Twyford  

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