Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Paula Bennett's housing deja vu

After a week of bad media coverage about homelessness in Auckland, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett was today forced to act, announcing that she would pay homeless Aucklanders $5,000 to move to the regions (where they'd conveniently be out of sight of the media and out of mind of the public). This is being pitched as a response to the current crisis. But it seems awfully familiar. Because she announced practically the same policy back in January:

Aucklanders languishing on the state house waiting list are likely to be offered financial incentives to move to regions that have a surplus of homes, the Herald can reveal.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett confirmed last night that the Government wants prospective tenants to consider moving to regions where dozens of state houses are vacant - and in some cases could be offered thousands of dollars in taxpayer sweeteners.

Pacific Island tenants could be prime candidates for such a move, she thought.

The only difference is that now she's offering more money. But its the same policy, driven by the same imperative: not to actually solve the problem - that would require building more state houses, something National does not want to do - but to create the appearance of action and allow the government to say that it is "doing something". Meanwhile, National is selling or even demolishing its state houses in the regions, meaning that there will be nowhere for people to move to. But it doesn't care about the reality, any more than it cares about the homeless. Its just a PR problem to them, rather than an open wound in our society.