New Zealand human rights commission launches inquiry into housing crisis

Reuters
Wellington Published: Aug 02, 2021, 08:30 AM(IST)

A view of personal items of a homeless person living on the sides of busy streets in Wellington, New Zealand. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

New Zealand`s Human Rights Commission launched an inquiry into the country`s housing crisis on Monday as cooling measures by the government this year have failed to ease a red-hot property market. It has left many people homeless. Property prices in New Zealand have soared by the most among OECD nations in the past 12 months

New Zealand`s Human Rights Commission on Monday launched an inquiry into the country`s housing crisis as cooling measures by the government this year have failed to ease a red-hot property market, leaving many people homeless.

Property prices in New Zealand have soared by the most among OECD nations in the past 12 months, rising about 30%, as investors cashed in on historically low interest rates and cheap access to capital under the government`s pandemic-inspired stimulus spending.

Successive governments have failed to solve the housing crisis and for many people, especially young people, the goal of an affordable home has become more remote, New Zealand`s Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said in a statement.

"The housing crisis in Aotearoa is also a human rights crisis encompassing homeownership, market renting, state housing and homelessness," Hunt said, using the country`s indigenous Maori name.

"It is having a punishing impact especially on the most marginalised in our communities," he said.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, said in her report published in June that there is a persistent lack of affordable housing in New Zealand, and consecutive governments have failed to ensure that the housing market meets the needs of the entire population, particularly those who have low incomes.

Soaring prices and rents have forced families into emergency housing, with the government housing many in motels as there are not enough state homes available.

Under pressure Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched a raft of measures this year to tax investors and discourage speculators. But these have had only a marginal impact.

The rising inequality inflamed by the housing crisis is arguably the biggest political challenge facing Ardern`s centre-left Labour-led government. The 41-year-old`s popularity soared with her response to the pandemic that kept nationwide cases to barely 2,500 and led to an emphatic election win last year.

But her support has been slipping with the latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll on Sunday showing Labour`s support fell to 43%, down almost 10 points since the last poll in May, while the main opposition National Party`s support inched up to almost 29%. Support for Ardern as the prime minister also declined but she was still well ahead of her rivals.

Ardern defended her government`s record on housing saying it was pulling every lever to ensure everyone gets a warm, dry home.

“When I look at the record of what we’ve done, 8,000 houses to date, 18,000 on the cards. We are scaling up as quickly as we can," Ardern told state broadcaster TVNZ in a interview after the inquiry was announced.

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