The Very, Very Slow Fix

In the week of the 2011 election TV3 chose to screen my documentary INSIDE CHILD POVERTY. The immediate reaction from right wing commentators was that I was a baised leftist journalist. I was making making a mountain out of a molehill. There was no such thing as “Child Poverty” the term made no sense.

Minister For Social Development Paula Bennett claimed even if it did exist you couldn’t measure it. In parliament (August 2012) she said there was no official measure of poverty and any measure was likely to be speculative because it was constantly changing as children could move in and out of poverty “on a daily basis” as soon as their parent gets a job.

Eight years later we are at least measuring Child Poverty but the problem is not going away because the root cause of it is not going away. Neoliberal economics and the free market approach to housing isn’t solving the problem.

Yesterday Stats NZ released its first report required under the Child Poverty Reduction Act . Yes it really is “ a thing” now regardless of what Right Wing bloggers said abojut my doco at the time and it sets both three and 10-year targets to reduce child poverty and hardship.

Rather depressingly Stats NZ have reported roughly the same figures I reported 8 years ago . Taking a poverty line measure of a household having less that 50% of the median disposable income we have about 180,000 children living in poverty,however once housing costs are taken into consideration you are looking at about 254,000 children (23 percent) of our kids living in poverty.

If you drop the household income to 40% of median income then its approximately 174,000 living in dire circumstances.

So one of the main problems remains affordable housing .

I my documentary WHO OWNS NEW ZEALAND NOW? I pointed out we have an obsession with home ownership as the solution – largely because it has been a way of making untaxed wealth .

I said we need to be changing the question from “How can everyone own a home ?” to “How can we give everyone security of tenure?” because once you get away from the obsession with ownership, then solutions such as long term leasing and group housing that I reported on from Germany become possible.

I remain highly sceptical of Kiwibuild. At best it is a top down solution. A few people will benefit from it. What we need is a bottom up solution which benefits the very many people on low incomes

We should be holding government sponsored architectural competitions for the construction of low cost healthy living and community environments within the city limits and along lines of existing infrastructure.

The more people we can assist into healthy homes at the bottom of the income scale the healthier the children who live in those families will be.

A focus on housing low income families first would also reduce the pressure on private rentals. The more rental properties become available the lower the rents will be and the more chance middle income earners will have of making ends meet and who knows- maybe they will be able to save enough to afford a deposit on a Kiwibuild home.

So looking back over the last 8 years since making INISDE CHILD POVERTY there is evidence of a bit of a fix but it has been very, very slow coming and there remains an awful lot to do.

You can find my 2011 documentary INSIDE CHILD POVERTY here.



Cartoon by Chris Slane

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