Larry Williams on housing

Larry Williams makes some sensible prognostications on housing and politicians.

Nobody can surely claim that our welfare system is unfair. To the contrary, we have a world class welfare system with accommodation supplements, Working for Families and other welfare payments. Compared to other countries, our welfare system is generous.

I suspect that is part of the problem. This country’s intergenerational welfare is integral to many of the social problems we have today. Labour have been leaders in this.

Welfarism is what has allowed society to develop segments in it that think it is the role of the government to fund their massive families and provide all the accomodation for them as well. Poverty is almost universally caused by having too many mouths to feed in this country. We have the lowest unemployment figures in a  generation and yet rampant ‘poverty’ and in almost every case there are many, many mouths to feed.

Little’s answer to homelessness is more welfare, a massive building programme for affordable housing, building more state houses rather than selling them off, and a clampdown on offshore speculators forcing house prices out of the reach of families.

Memo to Mr Little:

1. The offshore speculator xenophobia that was dredged up by Labour was found to be a fiction just the other week.
2. These people living in cars will never be house buyers. Prices will always be out of reach. They are lifetime renters.
3. A house is a house is a house. The state doesn’t need to own that house.

The extreme welfare cost in accommodation supplements is problematic. It costs $2 billion a year with 60 per cent of landlords subsidised by the government. The cost is out of control already. It is one of the reasons why we have runaway house price inflation – investors seeking tax advantages as well as government subsidies.

However, those serious issues aside, there is no question that there is an urgent need for more social housing and this should be addressed in the budget.

The only way to get enough social housing stock is by building high-rise housing estates like they have overseas. We need volume and scale and that is surely the only way to achieve it.

Building more state houses on quarter acre blocks is not the answer to social housing.

We are now at the point where someone has actually said that we need tower blocks. They haven’t been too flash in the UK in creating estates of poverty and poor quality housing blocks, but that is the reality now.

Rest assured some NIMBYs will use the RMA to stop it though…and the problems will continue.

But Larry Williams is right. The state isn’t the answer here. The state has failed. We created this mess through welfarism.


– NZ Herald


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  • Christie

    I have to say – back to my childhood in Liverpool – that high rise flats were a disaster there in the 1960s. Most of them have long since been pulled down. Contrast that with Hong Kong, where everyone lives in an apartment, and just about everyone pays rent – and there are few social problems. There is not much welfare in Hong Kong either though. Apartment living is going to have to become a reality here, especially in Auckland and Wellington. Trouble is, one half decent shake in Wellington, and the entire apartment block needs to have the ceilings put back in place.

    • Builder

      The cost per m2 for high rise apartments is about double the cost of single level houses. Maybe the long term unemployed and homeless can be moved out to Huntly.

      • Christie

        Agreed – but one of the biggest problems in Auckland is the cost of land.

        • one for the road

          Land and houses cheap in towns like huntly, in fact why dont they move all the long term unemployed and the like who live in state houses to houses in small towns – better still create new towns for these people…

          • Christie

            Completely agree – it would help to solve the problems in Auckland and also give them accommodation much more cheaply. And – isn’t there Government funding available to help with the relocation costs?

      • Zanyzane

        That is why they choose to live in their cars.

  • shykiwibloke

    Want to see what real welfare does? Check out Kiwiblogs current story on Venezuela

  • BigDogTalking

    I am glad to see a distinction in the above between Social Housing (for people with a social need such as a disability) and Affordable (people who want a house that fits their budget) which are different but often conflated.
    I have sympathy for government funding of Social Housing as the private sector is never going to be involved in providing housing at a sub economic return.
    Much less sympathy for Affordable as this is a lot about the circumstances of the person, eg continuing to live in Auckland on minimum wage (which must be hell) you are never going to own a house.

  • Kiwikea

    The problem with inter-generational welfarism is that people start actually thinking they have a right to the states property. Case in point, Glen Innes when they wanted to bowl 3 bed houses on 1/4 acres to put in 2-3 houses, and they used the NIMBY argument and that they had lived there for 20 years.

    • PersonOfColor:WHITE

      State property is everyone’s. (/sarc) But these people believe that private property is evil capitalism and should be abolished.

    • InnerCityDweller

      This article goes back a couple of years, but clearly shows that 20 years in the same statehouse is nothing compared to these folk:

  • JC

    The lesson we refuse to learn is state housing is always a failure. Virtually all other countries that we might compare ourselves with have always known this so they build as cost efficiently as possible and confine the social problems to tightly defined areas.

    Here is the stunning evidence of overseas public housing policies.. scroll down to the bottom to see how NZ’s housing is different and disperses the social problems over huge areas that are impossible to administer and police adequately.

    Its long past time to acknowledge the reality of state housing and work to confine its costs as other countries do.


  • BR

    It certainly is unfair. It is unfair to those of us who are forced to contribute to the feeding, clothing and housing of so many insufferable ingrates.


  • Christie

    Labour is so contradicotory. There is Andrew Little out there bleating about all these people forced to live in garages because of not enough state housing – but he wants to double the quota of refugees. And where are they going to love? In a garage?

    (I started listening to the radio broadcast of him in Otara this morning on my phone, but couldn’t figure out how the turn it off! 12 minutes of sheer torture.)

    • Mick Ie

      I read the other day, somewhere in NZ a new immigrant family has been placed in a state house – are others also being housed over NZers in need, as is also happening in other Western Countries.

  • localnews

    Maybe it is time to change the name. Far from helping people social welfare is responsible for most of the ills in our society. Maybe we could call it “destroying peoples lives by giving them money”

    • Zanyzane

      We give money to keep poor people quiet. The price of peace. I prefer to give rather than to have barb wire and body guards and armed police.

  • David Moore

    “We are now at the point where someone has actually said that we need tower blocks. They haven’t been too flash in the UK in creating estates of poverty and poor quality housing blocks, but that is the reality now.”

    This has been tried almost in every western country and was a total failure. There was never a significant problem with the actual buildings, the problem was the people put in them.

    • Wheninrome

      But this is the root cause, the people. If they were people who got off their backsides we would not have such a huge need for “social” housing. People would take care of themselves.
      The old story, giving a fish or teaching how to fish. The education system is out there, unfortunately the will in a lot of cases is missing. They do not want to learn (to fish) they want their (fish) given to them .

    • Zanyzane

      Our problem is we do not know how to build tower blocks that do not leak. All our tower blocks are leaking.

  • Usaywot

    One of the worst things ever was the DPB. While I know it has its legitimate uses handing money to teenage girls to sit on their behinds and breed was the dumbest of ideas and has created this huge generation of welfare dependents. Their kids would have been better off adopted out where they would have a much better chance at life and, hopefully, break the cycle. Tough on the mothers? too bad, better for the kids.

  • Totara

    Why do politicians always treat the problem of housing as a supply issue?

    Wouldn’t it be far better to have done something about the demand side of the equation?

    Making contraception a condition of welfare years ago could have eliminated the present need for the majority of all state housing. Then, welfare could be targetted to those people who have genuine physical and mental health disabilities.

    And as for the claim that Nobody can surely claim that our welfare system is unfair, I suspect that hard-working taxpayers might disagree.

    • Zanyzane

      When you are bringing in 4 million tourists and 110k international students contributing $14 billion into the NZ economy there is nothing much you can do about demand pressures. Clearly we are not building enough hotels, the Air BnB business is booming.

      • Observer

        I think Michael Reddell’s suggestion on the demand side is that the non-citizen inward migration target could be reduced to 15-20,000 per year. I’m not sure if that just relates to working visas, or includes student visas.

        • Zanyzane

          Michael Reddell is migrant biased. NZ population grows at the rate of natural birth. Immigration is largely a replacement policy. NZ Stats indicate that only 14k foreigners came into NZ as migrants a year. The government aims for 45k. The difference comes from international students and foreign workers already here. Michael Reddell does not factor in that most international students may work for a few years in NZ before departing. Also International students have already been counted as Permanent and long term migrants the minute they land here in NZ as international students. They are double counted when they become NZ residents. The government aims for a higher target because there is no certainty that we keep these international students in NZ.

        • Zanyzane

          If the government reduces the target then population in NZ goes negative. You have to weigh the cost of a declining population with a declining tax pool and who looks after a aging population.

        • Zanyzane

          Michael Reddell is referring to the governments real migrant target. They aim for 45k to 50k new real migrants a year. The net PLT(Permanent and Long Term Migrant) number reported by NZ stats includes international students, foreign workers and also tourists ie anyone that will stay in NZ for more than 12 months is classified as a Permanent and long term migrant.

  • Zanyzane

    Unfortunately social Welfare is the price of peace. The accomodation supplement is not a landlord subsidy it is the cost to meet market rents to house poor people. The alternative to spending $2 billion on social welfare is to spend the $2 billion on barb wire and armed police officers driving armoured vehicles.

    • Observer

      Yes, the extreme alternative is South Africa although the demographic balance in NZ (of those in poverty v taxpayers) hasn’t reached that stage.

      The trend is though, for the least educated to have more children. Professor James Flynn pointed this out a few years ago. Cindy Caro was not impressed.

  • Observer

    The only way that the growing underclass dependent on state welfare will ever decrease is if they decide to limit their family size through contraception (as most middle class couples do). Part of the problem is people lack future time orientation, and in some cases have drug/alcohol issues. So they won’t reliably use contraception.

    Making contraception,via temporary birth control shots, a condition of welfare would help protect against pregnancy and help some of these people move out of poverty.

  • Superman

    The problem with welfare is that it breeds more welfare. Richard Prebble once said “Don’t pay for things you don’t want. If you don’t want unmarried mothers don’t pay unmarried mothers”. This applies to all welfare. If you feed children at school because their parents are too lazy or selfish or useless to do it at home you will get more children turning up to schools unfed. Because everyone has a vote, once you reach the stage where more than 50% of people are getting some sort of welfare you are on the road to social destruction as people then vote for parties like labour that promise even more welfare. They never stop to think where the money comes from and there is a limit. As Margaret Thatcher said “The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money”.