Tuesday, June 16, 2015

National's New Zealand

Some contents to correlate. First, rough sleeping - not just homeless and living in a garage, but so homeless you're sleeping in a public park - has doubled in Auckland in the past year:

Record numbers of people are sleeping rough or in cars this winter as Auckland's desperate housing shortage makes life harder than ever for those at the bottom of the city's frantic housing market.


The latest street count last October found that the numbers sleeping rough within 3km of the Sky Tower more than doubled from 68 in the 2013 count to 147. Although most were men, more women were sleeping rough, up from seven in 2012 to 31. Thirteen more women engaged with the mission's homeless outreach workers for the first time in the three months to April, compared with 25 new men and three transgender people.

And meanwhile, Auckland's property investing class are leaving homes to stand empty:
Prices are rising so fast that speculators are buying homes and refusing to rent them out, instead looking to sell them for huge profits without the hassle of finding tenants in the interim.

One Mount Albert villa has been empty for years, much to the disgust of neighbour Chris Haturini.

"I just think it's appalling that this could be a home where someone else could be benefitting from it and living in it," she told ONE News, highlighting the fact there is clear evidence of squatting at the property.

Labour's Housing spokesman Phil Twyford says there could be thousands of houses in Auckland being left empty.

The census showed 22,000 empty homes in Auckland. Some of those will have been empty because of churn - they were in the gap between people moving out and people moving in. But the problem of deliberately untenanted houses is clearly significant enough to be noticeable. And for that to happen when there's a housing crisis and growing homelessness is simply obscene.

As for the solution, I'm not going to condemn any homeless person who finds one of these ghost houses and simply moves in. But then I don't think its a crime for the hungry to steal bread either. Actual human need trumps abstract property rights any day of the week. But in order to stop this from happening, we need a policy solution, rather than just relying on desperate people ignoring the law. And on that front, the answer is simple: tax the shit out of them. Unoccupied houses impose costs on wider society. It is only fair that those costs be paid by those responsible for them: property owners who refuse to rent out their surplus homes. Homes are for people to live in, not some financial instrument for reaping secure, tax-free capital gains.