By Cr Rob McCann
There’s no quick fix to the housing crisis in New Zealand or the Kāpiti Coast, so when I was given the Housing Portfolio by Mayor Gurunathan, I finally had an opportunity to be part of the team that could create change that would benefit our community.
With house prices outstripping incomes by four to one over the last ten years and rental accommodation rising approximately 40% faster than household incomes, we’re heading for a disaster where families and workers have to move north out of Kāpiti, to find more affordable accommodation.
That is unsustainable for businesses who need workers, for schools that need teachers and the list goes on. We have to do what we can so that people are able to get onto the property ladder, and also ensure that we reduce the numbers of people on the public housing lists and in emergency housing. Families that have substandard housing or no housing have poor social outcomes with children often struggling at school or becoming sick through overcrowding and dampness.
To help drive that home we took part in the Park Up For Homes in 2016. The children and I piled into our mid-sized car and headed off to Wellington to live in our car for the night with hundreds of other families from across the region.
After a fun gathering at the front of the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, we parked up, just across from the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, a few hundred meters from Parliament. There were actual homeless people huddling under a church doorway for shelter and we felt like imposters. But regardless of our temporary plight, there was no way of getting comfortable.
It was a chilly winter’s night, with rain, noise from drunken revellers in the wee small hours and constant traffic. Pre pandemic, it was the bustling Wellington of old and sleeping as a family in a car was not pleasant. Condensation was quick to form inside the windows and with Wellington’s wind and rain, open windows just let in a different kind of water. Even our devices (which we had brought along fully charged) looked like they were under water and ready to fail.
It wasn’t the most fun family outing we’ve ever had, and with only a couple hours of sleep by sunrise, the children (aged 8 and 12 at the time) were keen to go home. And of course, we could, leaving behind the McDonalds where we had to brush our teeth and use their toilets, and the damp car to a real home with running waters, hot showers and warm drinks. The real homeless would still have been sheltering under the church doorway while we all went back to bed.
While we could escape after barely just one night, too many New Zealanders can’t. In Kāpiti Coast, we have put together a Housing Needs Assessment documenting the real housing need in our region, and right now there are 190 people on the public housing waiting list, 50 adults and 40 children are living in emergency housing, and over 200 people living in boarding houses.
That’s why I’ve spent the last two year’s working to shift our council from one that is just playing a regulatory role in housing, to playing an active role through our Housing Strategy. One of those actions is to create a housing entity that could:
- qualify for government funding and support
- be operated in partnership with iwi and other partners
- operate with a degree of independence and has access to necessary specialist skills and experience
- operate with financial sustainability over the long term
- with returns reinvested into affordable housing
Council is currently consulting on the proposal as required, and the decision on whether to proceed will be made by the incoming council following the elections. So please Have Your Say and send the new council a clear message, that we need to continue to take action and support the Independent Community Land Trust option. The choice to do something or nothing to help with this crisis is in your hands. Consultation closes on Friday 8th July at 5pm.
Rob McCann is a District Wide first term councillor with the Housing and Social Wellbeing Portfolios.