Friday, July 21, 2017

The cost of denial

Despite having been warned for years about the housing crisis, National now says it had "no idea" that it was a problem:

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett has admitted "in hindsight" the Government's response to the housing crisis has been too slow.


"We had no idea how much it was going to cost," Ms Bennett told The AM Show on Friday morning.

"We had no idea it would ever be this big. No Government had ever picked up the bill for this. No Government has ever funded emergency housing."

Asked if the Government should have done something about it earlier, Ms Bennett said that "in hindsight, you always wish you'd gone earlier".

But this wasn't ignorance: it was denial. National simply didn't want to admit the problem existed (especially when it was making its urban voters feel wealthy as their house prices rose). But this denial has cost us. At the moment the government is spending $50 million a year putting homeless people up in overpriced motels, spending that could have been avoided if they'd acted sooner and built more state houses. But again, that would have required admitting that the problem existed, and accepting that it is the government's job to fix it - both anathema to National.

And so because of government denial we have a massive social problem which is going to cost us hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars to directly fix, while likely imposing that much in flow-on costs due to its health, education, and other effects. If only they'd pointed their social investment approach at that, rather than at finding more ways to throw people off benefits.