Tuesday, September 22, 2020

This is not kind

New Zealand has a serious homelessness problem, due to skyrocketing rents and a lack of state houses. One of the ways we stick a band-aid on it is to put people up in motels. Previously, they were charged full commercial rates, saddled with odious debt due to the government's failure to provide the services it promised. When public outrage over that cruel policy grew too much, the then-National government was forced to provide emergency housing for free. Which then exposed that the crisis was much bigger than they thought, as demand grew without the threat of eternal debt-slavery to WINZ. Now, the Labour government - one which was supposed to "bring kindness back" - is returning to the policy of charging people for the government's failure:

Now the Labour-led government is pushing ahead with a plan to charge families like hers 25 percent of their income for staying in these emergency motels.

The change was announced in February, set to come into place in March, but was delayed due to Covid-19.

Now it will come into effect on October 19 - two days after the election.

The Government argues it is a question of fairness along with a much-needed incentive to get people out of emergency housing and into private, transitional or social housing.

While income-related, this is still a fundamentally flawed policy, in that no amount of money can incentivise people to find homes that (due to government policy failure) don't exist. Instead, what it will incentivise them to do is not apply for assistance to avoid debt. And that I suspect is the point: discourage applications, get the statistics "back under control", and make the problem "go away" - by sweeping it under the carpet. But in reality, the people deterred from applying will still be living in cars or garages, not the warm, safe homes the government is meant to be providing for them.

This isn't "kindness" - its exactly the same NeoLiberal viciousness practised by National. And we should not accept it. These people need homes. It is the government's job to provide them. If the government can't, then it - rather than its victims - should pay the financial penalty for that failure. It is that simple.