All New Zealanders have the human right to adequate housing. It might be “the best kept secret” in the country, but this right has been endorsed by our governments for 70 years, and it’s one of the key pillars for Greater Auckland’s “20/20 Vision on Housing” series.

An opinion piece by Paul Hunt of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) does a great job of setting the scene (first published in the NZ Herald Dec 2019, available here, the version below edited, hacked and slashed by me):

The best kept secret in New Zealand – a decent home is your right

Situated near Edinburgh, Leith has had major housing problems. Residents have complained of mould, poor heating, vermin infestation and substandard bathrooms and kitchens. Sounds familiar?

The Edinburgh Tenants’ Federation, and the Scottish Human Rights Commission, publicly called out the poor housing for what it was: a breach of the residents’ human right to a decent home.

This human right does not mean the authorities have a duty to give everyone a house with a back and front yard. That would be ridiculous. It means the government has a duty to do everything possible within its power to create an economic and social environment in which everyone can enjoy a warm, dry, decent, affordable and accessible home.

So, the Tenants’ Federation and Scottish Commission went into action. They listened to residents and explained to councillors what the human right to a decent home means. Plans were agreed and residents monitored progress. Councillors were held accountable for their human rights responsibilities. It was – and remains – a hard slog.

What happened? Improvements were made, including new kitchens, bathrooms, heating, windows, ventilation and asbestos removal.

But something else occurred. As Heather Ford, the treasurer of the residents’ association, put it, “Human rights pulls you together as a community and gives you the same goal. The fact that I know that I have a right to a wind-tight, water-tight, mould-free house means that I don’t have to be scared.”

In other words, not only did human rights help to improve material lives, they also empowered tenants and their communities.

The right to a decent home is rooted in the [1948] Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New Zealanders helped to draft this iconic document and New Zealand governments of every political hue have affirmed it.

Years ago, I was asked to speak in Ireland about the human right to an effective, accessible health system for all. As I explained that Dublin had signed up to this human right, a woman shouted from the back of the hall, “That must be the best-kept secret in Ireland!”

She had a point – and the point applies to the right to a decent home in Aotearoa. New Zealand’s international housing-rights obligations are among the best-kept secrets in the country. This secrecy lets governments off the hook and disempowers individuals, communities, whānau and iwi.

The Human Rights Commission’s responsibilities include advising authorities on how they can implement these human rights, as well as holding government accountable if it falls short.

Human rights are not only about lawyers and courts. They are about listening to and empowering communities. They are about strengthening local and national policies.

Canada has recently passed a National Housing Strategy Act which affirms “the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right”. The Canadian minister is mandated to develop a strategy “taking into account key principles of a human-rights-based approach to housing”.

It is time for New Zealand to follow the example set by Canada. Our housing crisis is also a human rights crisis. The crisis encompasses homeownership, market renting, state housing and homelessness, as well as the punishing impact of substandard housing, especially on the disadvantaged, such as disabled people.

Of course, human rights cannot solve the crisis, but they have a contribution to make. Given the magnitude of the challenge it would be foolhardy not to use all the tools at our disposal.

The first step is to identify what the right to a decent home means in the unique context of Aotearoa.

This requires building on key human rights values, such as fairness, decency, equality, freedom, belonging and community. Honouring Te Ao Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Recognising New Zealand’s national and international human rights commitments beyond Te Tiriti. Benefiting from the huge literature on the right to a decent home and learning from the evidence to see what works.

Once it is clarified, the human right to a decent home in Aotearoa can empower individuals, communities, whānau and iwi; strengthen housing initiatives; and serve to hold government accountable.

There are some good stories above, even if you can’t do a convincing Irish, Canadian or Scottish accent (to be sure, maple syrup, laddie). Let’s see what we can take from this.

One: NZ’s government has a duty to “create an economic and social environment in which everyone can enjoy a warm, dry, decent, affordable and accessible home”.

Two: these rights shouldn’t be a “secret”, or “invisible” as the HRC have called them elsewhere; they need to be out in the open so that they can be applied.

Three: NZ’s “housing crisis is also a human rights crisis”.

Four: we can (and are obliged to) act on it, as other countries have done.

Five: we do need to define what exactly an adequate or decent home means in New Zealand. That work is now getting underway.

Six: it won’t be an overnight solution; it will be a progress and a “hard slog”. Organisations like the HRC will continue to monitor the situation long after the worst aspects are fixed.

“A typical New Zealand street”, from

So what is “the human right to (adequate) housing? The Human Rights Commission summed it up nicely in a two-page flyer in 2017:

“The human right to adequate housing… has been described by the most authoritative UN Treaty Body on economic and social rights as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.

It must be provided in a non-discriminatory way. Everyone… is entitled to the enjoyment of this right.

The Government is not required under its human rights obligations to build housing for anyone or to own houses. Its duty is to ensure that all people in New Zealand enjoy their human right to adequate housing.

Business – including… landlords – has a responsibility to respect the human right to adequate housing. If operations have a negative impact on the right to adequate housing business has a responsibility to remedy that negative impact”.

And drilling down further into what kind of housing is “adequate”, again lightly edited:

The human right to adequate housing does not simply mean a roof over people’s heads. The United Nations has defined seven standards that must be met:

►Security of tenure: Residents should be protected against forced eviction, harassment and other threats.
►Habitability: adequate space that protects residents from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind, and other threats to health, structural hazards, and disease.
► Accessibility: Housing must be accessible to all, and disadvantaged and vulnerable groups – including the disabled – must be accorded full access to housing resources.
►Affordability: Housing costs should not compromise the attainment of other basic needs. For example, people should not have to choose between paying rent and buying food.
► Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure: Water and sanitation, power and other essential utilities.
►Location: Housing should not be built on polluted sites… [and] must be in a location which allows access to employment, health-care, schools, and other social facilities.
►Cultural Adequacy: Housing and housing policies must guarantee the expression of cultural identity and diversity.

HRC also wrote a more detailed report in 2010. This notes that most of the concern in NZ is around the habitability, accessibility, and affordability dimensions. We’ll be talking a lot about “affordability” this year, as well as “habitability” – which is essentially a “quality” measurement.

Auckland’s and New Zealand’s housing crisis hasn’t emerged overnight; it’s developed over many years. And perhaps the HRC hasn’t been as vocal on this as it should have been, but they are starting to get the issue in the spotlight. New Zealand is currently being visited by a UN representative on housing human rights, Leilani Farha; she’ll be making her report soon, with recommendations for improvement; and you can expect to hear more on the issue this year.

Lastly, a great piece on The Spinoff from a Kiwi living in Sweden, showing what housing can look like when it ticks the boxes above, and human rights are front and centre. This isn’t the only way to do it – as noted above, the government doesn’t necessarily have to either own or build housing, nor does rent need to be controlled – but it gives an international perspective, showing that other countries can take very different approaches to their housing infrastructure.

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  1. Good post. It gets at the point of how screwed up we have become by looking at housing as primarily an investment tool rather than, you know, basic shelter.

    Hopefully current rates of home building are maintained for a long time, keeping house prices flat and slowly but surely weaning people off housing investment and into more productive other forms.

      1. Keep in mind that article 25 refers to ‘adequate housing’ not just the shitty, mouldy, wooden shacks we live in in NZ but functional housing that keeps us healthy.
        We have been failed by successive governments in providing this and even new houses still fail. This needs to be addressed so that its not just more housing but more decent housing that is built to international standards that work.

    1. “… to put up our artwork” You really have a problem with that? Places without artwork on the wall don’t usually look like homes.

      Is having a place made personal and pretty something renters aren’t allowed?

      1. No, they (the renters) need to be reminded of their socioeconomic status on the daily, by staring at blank walls for their penance.

        Personalizing one’s living space. That is only for the privileged who have their lives in order!

        My bro in law in Germany just spent 10k renovating his rented apartment. With strong tenancy rights and an asssurance that some of the resulting value will be shared with him. It was a comfortable decision to make. Meanwhile in NZ… Excuse me landlord can i please put up a tiny pin prick hole to hang a painting… “Absolutely not”!

        Would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. Grumpysmurf’s attitude is horrible and sadly reflects the current MO that a house is an economic store of capital first and foremost as opposed to a place to shelter and keep humans safe (let alone enjoy being there)!

      2. It’s not a wall that you own, you are only renting it, will you fix the holes when you leave? Most won’t.

        You can do what you want with property you own, but when it’s not your’s you can’t. Pretty simple isn’t it.

    2. ‘Of course we’ll fill them back up when we move out, that’s our responsibility.’

      Sounds pretty reasonable to me. It is pretty much how commercial rentals in NZ work, you can do whatever you want with the fitout as long as you return things to the way they were before you leave.

  2. Thanks John,

    A pleasure to read. Also enjoyed the Spinoff article, so thanks for sharing.

    One thing that has really been playing on my mind recently is the fact that we probably already have enough square metreage of living space in NZ to accomodate everyone.

    Let me explain… My wife and I live in a 200sqm house (no kids as yet). Our respective parents also rattle around in 200sqm+ houses as well. With one eye to the future we’ve already started discussing converting our garage and adjoining bedroom and bathroom into a granny flat should our parents one day need it; or any multitude of wayward rellies (that’s another story).

    The resulting situation would be a 120sqm home and a 80sqm self contained granny flat. The loss of an internal access garage is of no real issue to me personally. As tools etc can easily be accommodated in a Versatile type garage that would cost no more than $15k. You could go even cheaper if you just wanted a garden shed.

    I suspect I could do my project for around $80-100k. Far cheaper than Kiwibuild pricing anywhere.

    By international standards an 80sqm home for 2 people is ample! My wife grew up in an Eastern European Communist state in 50sqm with 4 siblings. 7 pax into 50sqm is of course very tight; however does Mum, Dad and the standard 2 kids really need 200sqm +?

    It is as much a kiwi culture/history of space thing (1/4 acre dream etc), that is stopping this kind of thinking. My parents are aghast at the idea of removing their internal access garage. Believing that doing so would both render their property virtually worthless; and lead to certain death from exposure when needing to walk 10 metres outside with groceries on a brutally cold and wet Auckland day.

    Don’t get me wrong building apartments and terraced housing etc is fantastic and should be encouraged; however there would be huge value in promoting more of this kind of behaviour as well. Seems like there is some low hanging fruit to be had here…

    Keen for others thoughts on whether this is valid and if so, how it should be encouraged in a positive way; as opposed to the current state where it’s often driven out of necessity.. Thanks…

    1. “As tools etc can easily be accommodated in a Versatile type garage that would cost no more than $15k” – good luck with that. I assume you have never had dealings with the council?

      1. I would be needing to get a building consent to add another kitchen and to bring the garage area up to habitable standard as well as changing an exterior element (replacing garage door with window). So I was factoring in the cost of the kitset over and above this cost I would have to incur anyway. Not sure if you could slip a standalone garage consent into the consent for the overall house reno. In any event i most likely wouldn’t get a garage so potentially a moot point.

        Anyway, the intricacies of my proposed project isn’t really of any real note. The overall sentiment is more what i’m interested in.

    2. “My parents are aghast at the idea of removing their internal access garage. Believing that doing so would both render their property virtually worthless; and lead to certain death from exposure when needing to walk 10 metres outside with groceries on a brutally cold and wet Auckland day.”

      Out of interest; are they also amongst the older generation who believe with some level of chauvinism that Kiwis are “rough and tumble tough people”?

      1. I wouldn’t have a house without an internal access garage.
        The big factor being overlooked here is safety – you can open the door,
        drive in, and close the door, without getting out of your locked
        car. For the elderly, especially females, this is an important factor.

        1. The likelihood of being attacked while getting in and out of the car parked out the front of your house is about as high as someone breaking into your house/garage.

        2. I am more at risk from the piles of things in my garage falling on me. Old hobbies, half finished projects, stuff that is too good to dump etc. But getting attacked in the driveway? At worst someone might try and give me a copy of the Watchtower and invite me to praise their invisible man.

        3. You can mitigate that risk by making sure your front door is visible from the street.

          Actually, scratch that, this is of no use if everyone else on the street is behind a 1.80m high wall.

        4. You biggest safety issue with a car is driving it. There are 10,000 car crashes a year in New Zealand, compared to 1,200 assaults by a stranger.

        5. @roeland
          Would the extra security from having a door visible from the street be because it might be seen by the same people who presumably wouldn’t somehow see a person being attacked whilst entering/ exiting their car parked on the street?

        6. Isnt the point of Kintyre Kid’s comment that a garage is such a poor misallocation of potential habitable space. Your comments around having a garage to negate getting attacked and to store half finished projects seems to validate that notion.

    3. Hi Kintyre, hope you still see this – I’m a bit late! ‘Minor dwellings’ are something I’m quite interested in but don’t know much detail on; hope to learn a little this year and write a bit of an overview. I do know that various councils have rules to facilitate them, and Auckland did bring in something on this in the Unitary Plan (I think there had previously been provisions in some of the old council areas, but not all of them).

      And yes, I’m sure we do have enough floorspace and bedrooms to accommodate everyone, but it probably takes disasters like the Canterbury earthquakes to get people to open up their homes. I don’t think we can or should compel people, not that you’re trying to suggest that.

      I’m no different; I have a barely utilised ‘guest bedroom’ set up and almost never used. We never really wanted to rent it out; thought about putting it on Airbnb but haven’t done that either. We have the luxury of being able to do this, and not needing a flatmate; many don’t. And I wrestle with this a little philosophically, but we (my family and I) like having our own exclusive space. Given the choice between three bedrooms and a random flatmate, vs, our own two bedroom, we would have taken the latter.

      Households/ living arrangements are interesting things; more on that soon!

  3. Well perhaps stop being hypocrites by advocating for immigration to various governments that have opened the floodgates on immigration (most of which choose Auckland)! Every additional one means one less house available for New Zealanders “right to a decent home”. It also means less builders/tradies etc are available to add to housing stock for NZers as they are building/renovating for immigrants and/or overseas buyers (luckily this government has put some restrictions in place regarding foreign buyers!).

    1. The housing stock in Auckland has been pretty poor for a long time. I remember renting a couple of mould boxes 15 years ago where pretty much everything we owned went mouldy, it can’t have been good for our health.
      The mould had nothing to do with immigration. If anything the immigration is forcing the old crappers to be demolished.

      1. Some immigrants are builders, you know (what do you think all those Irishmen are doing in Christchurch? Apart from forming the backbone of the local Gaelic football clubs)

    2. immigrants are a convenient scapegoat. But to “keep it real”; they wouldn’t be any problem if NZ’s various level of governments had made sure that there was enough affordable housing supply instead of encouraging a shortage to bost people’s property values.
      Would they?

      1. What government anywhere in the developed world has been able to supply enough affordable housing and infrastructure when running immigration rates greater than 1% of the population per annum? It’s nigh on impossible to do which is why very few countries operate such high levels of immigration (and those that do usually only do so briefly). Also most countries don’t have immigration targeted almost entirely at one city like we do with Auckland.

        Yes immigrants can be builders and the Christchurch earthquakes was a good example of bringing in the right type of immigrants to help with the rebuild (tradies etc). The amount of tradies coming in to the rest of NZ is far and away outweighed by immigrants in other categories to the point where they aren’t building enough for those new arrivals, let alone helping to build housing stock for kiwis.

        1. “What government anywhere in the developed world has been able to supply enough affordable housing and infrastructure when running immigration rates greater than 1% of the population per annum?”
          Erm… …the governments of France, Switzerland, Israel, Sweden, Itlay, Norway, Spain, Japan…

          “It’s nigh on impossible to do which is why very few countries operate such high levels of immigration (and those that do usually only do so briefly).”
          That’s clearly completely untrue.

          “Also most countries don’t have immigration targeted almost entirely at one city like we do with Auckland.”
          It’s complete bullshit that Auckland receives all the immigrants to start and it’s complete bullshit that other nations haven’t had their immigration focussed upon one city. Example: Where other than Copenhagen do immigrants to Denmark settle?

          Just face it and take responsibility for it: This is completely due to NZ being useless and not the immigrants at all.

    3. Easy to blame fporeigners rayther than look at the structural problems internally. The massive land grab by the ultra rich over the last 30 years is the problem, not people being added to our economy.

      Thomas Piketty says don’t blame foreign workers

      Land ownership by non-residents is a completely different issue from immigration in general.

      1. Not blaming foreigners. They’re not foreigners once they’re here anyway.

        Blaming a government who has no plan for new arrivals yet continues to pile it on.

        1. NZ governments and the people who voted them in loved exacerbating a housing shortage because it inflated the value of their own property.

      2. “The massive land grab by the ultra rich over the last 30 years”
        That is conspiracy BS.
        It was the regular everyday middle & working class Kiwis who were the main contributors.

        1. Don’t argue with me, read Capital in the 21st Century then argue with Thomas Picketty, possibly the most respected economist on inequality in the world right now.

          The top 10% in NZ are the ultra rich by world standards. Policies adopted since the 1980s have concentrated more and more wealth in fewer and fewer hands. That has caused the crisis we are in politically and economically, not immigrants. According to Picketty at least.

        2. I only got half way through his book and it was a few years back, but I think you’re mis-reading Piketty. He was mostly explaining how the share to the top 0.1%/1% grows inexorably. But if I remember right he also related growing asset prices (e.g. houses) to declining alternative investment opportunities.

    1. Careful what you wish for. Drive out the land lords and who will people rent from? Unless you think the Government is competent to provide a service and history is against you there.

      1. That’s right, miffy – if landlords get out of the renting business because they can’t make superprofits any more, the vacant houses will just DISAPPEAR IN A PUFF OF SMOKE

        1. They will disappear from the rental market in a puff of smoke and be bought be people who meeting the loan to value criteria. People who don’t will miss out. People who can’t get a loan will be screwed.

        2. Unless people choose to keep the house and not rent it. When you can borrow for 4% interest and the property is going up at 9% the major part of your return is capital gain. No tenant worries and tax free gains.

        3. Well there’s something that needs to be changed…

          Multiple parallel changes and approaches required to fix this pickle we’re in.

        4. “…and tax free gains”

          It will be a challenge to maintain the ludicrous pretence that a capital gain was not the intention hence a taxed capital gain is likely…and cause for celebration.

        5. “ Unless people choose to keep the house and not rent it. When you can borrow for 4% interest and the property is going up at 9% the major part of your return is capital gain.”

          Any landlord that can afford that can easily afford to bring their rental up to standard and probably would to make more money from the cashflow in the meantime.

      2. “history is against you there”
        How so? How has government own housing been any worse than the rubbish private landlords?

      3. We need mnore institutinal landlords and less “mum and dad investors” that Bridges loves to talk about.

        They will invest in proper stock and want long term tenants. We should be looking at how we encourage that.

  4. So since the 1930’s Labour government has built state houses and National governments have sold them and its getting boring. So Greater Auckland here’s an idea organise a petition requiring the Government to maintain a certain percentage of the total housing stock in the country as state houses. A Government repeatably failing to maintain housing stock would have ministers fined.

    1. Instead, one of the requirements HNZ gives its designers, I’ve been told, is that the apartments they build are set up to enable easy sale, for when the winds change again…

    2. And the incoming government changes that law and then sells the houses without their ministers being fined. How would this really improve the situation?

  5. The only problem I see with this argument that having an adequate house is a human right is that it is simply a load of crap. A few busy bodies lobbied for a declaration and some governments signed up so they would look good but it is hardly a right. Rights are freedoms, not entitlements to being given stuff by everyone else. You have a right to seek shelter and not have a government stop you. You have a right to breathe and seek water. But a right to be housed with someone else paying for it? Hardly. We can elect a government that provides housing for people who can’t provide for themselves or their kids if we choose. I happen to think that is a good idea. But please don’t claim it isn’t based on goodwill by the people paying. But nobody has a right to charity or a right to demand a house anymore than they have a right to demand a boat or aeroplane.
    Rights only exist if people agree they are rights. They don’t exist because a bunch of prats at the UN say they do.

      1. Thanks Daphne. The problem is every so-called positive right is a negative cost for someone else. Are they even rights in the first place or merely duties that society has. The right to free education exists because we all end up better off if society is educated. the right to healthcare benefits us all. The right to subsidised parking makes others worse off completely. None of these positive rights are rights at all, they are ideals that many of us support. But I totally resent being told someone else has a right to take more money from me so they can have a house with a better ventilation system than I have. If you check out our law you will see practically all of our rights are the negative kind with the simple exception of criminal procedure where those accused get the right to certain things from the justice system.

        Nobody in this country has a right to a house, but you have a right to work for one, a right not to be discriminated against getting one and a right to ask the government for help and be treated fairly. Claiming it is a human right is just bollocks and likely to do more harm to needy people than good.

        1. “The problem is every so-called positive right is a negative cost for someone else.”

          Fancy words for not wanting to share, methinks.

          Maybe every so-called positive right actually leads to better outcomes for all?

        2. Pushing one’s own politics is different to defining rights. The only rights we have are those agreed by our parliament and those are defined by what makes them re-electable. Claiming a house is a right doesn’t make it one, just as claiming a right to park outside your house doesn’t make it a right.
          I personally like the idea of housing people who can’t fend for themselves, I would build hostels for the homeless if I were in charge. But claiming it is their right to have a house given to them by everyone else is only going to piss people off.

        3. Miffy – that is a circular argument that does no one any good. Everything was asserted as a human right but had no practical effect until enacted by law.

          How does that add anything to the discussion? Human rights and the rule of law in general were built on that process. Otherwise we would all be governed by absolute monarchs.

        4. Goosoid, hence miffy’s point regarding positive rights.

          Negative rights are freedoms from something. Freedom from discrimination etc.

          A human right to not be obstructed in finding your own housing is a negative right.

          Positive rights are rights usually require someone else to do something in order to make it happen. A human right to housing is no different than a human right to free ice crea, or a free ferarri or a human right to an old-person unemployment benefit aka superannuation. These are all positive rights that someone will have to provide, such as the government. Which means everyone will have to pay for it whether they want to pay for it or not. It isn’t sharing when it is forced.

          Miffy is saying that all positive rights (things that cost money and require action from someone to ensure) are only there until the government changes it’s mind and not provide it anymore.

          Negative rights don’t require any action until someone tries to obstruct those rights and discriminate against someone and the government needs to step in to enforce those rights.

          Given that the NZ parliament is sovereign, they can change laws and rights whenever they want and as miffy says, they do what keeps them most electable.

          This isnt even going into the mess of what constitutes housing and trying to come up with one size fits all option that no one wants. That is one reason why we have a housing crisis because the law prescribes and encourages a certain type of detached house to be built which leads to an urban form that makes our transport problems so bad.

          You could argue that Labour’s tax-payer funded house-building in the 40’s, sowed the seeds of our destructive urban form.

        5. Yes it is circular. If rights were based on logic that would be a problem, but they not based on logic, they are part of a human process. What people believe and expect changes and, provided the Parliament isn’t constrained by a written constitution, the laws change to reflect that change in expectation.
          The simply fact is the only positive human rights anyone has is those that limit the government’s interactions with us. The right to due process if arrested, the right to vote and change the government. Even those can be curtailed by a sovereign Parliament but at the risk of civil unrest.
          Healthcare, education, housing, social welfare etc are not human rights. We can have as much or as little as society is prepared to pay for. They are based on our society’s altruism. The idea that someone at one time signed a UN statement puts any limit on what our sovereign Parliament can do is laughable.

        6. Meh, I think you’re philosophising, perhaps pontificating, and you’ve lost any pragmatism here, miffy and Ari. We are a social species. So look at it these two ways:

          1/ As a society we keep voting in governments that choose to remain in the UN. Leaving the UN isn’t an issue our voters have taken up as important to them. We are generally happy with the UN’s basic thrust of trying to keep countries peaceful and of defining what human rights are. And the right to housing is one such UN defined right.

          2/ A society looks after its members. People without homes are vulnerable and are likely to get sick and die. Saying there’s no right to housing is denying the responsibility that we collectively have to make sure we’re all ok. Sure, people have an ugly, excluding, overly-competitive side. It doesn’t define us. Part of the point of having government is to ensure the better side of us sets policy. And that better side of us cares if people have nowhere to live.

        7. I have waited to reply to get my thoughts clear. I ran them past Mrs mfwic and two of the Miss mfwics and all three think I am wrong. Nevertheless I still think I am right about this.
          In my view in New Zealand we don’t have a right to housing but we have a right to fair treatment when trying to get housing. The Bill of Rights and the Human Rights Act were both written and adopted by Parliament after the UN Declaration so politicians knew about article 25 and decided not to put it into either of our Acts that define our rights. Both Act focus on our freedoms and our rights to fair treatment when dealing with the various branches of Government and the avoidance of discrimination.
          Many people wish that housing was a right but that doesn’t make it one.
          One of the valid functions of a good government is to provide homes for people who can’t provide for themselves. Just as they provide a fire service, hospitals and defense. We are all better off if they do these things properly. But saying it is the right of the person receiving that benefit is nothing more than an attempt to remove any debate on the matter and from what you can see from countries like the US is that attempts to prevent debate on important issues only results in division with one side refusing to engage anymore other than with people who hold the same opinion as themselves.
          Telling right wingers someone has a right to a house at their expense isn’t going to end well. I think it is better pointing out that history has shown earlier governments that provided for those who can’t have given us all higher standards of living overall. Remember plenty of old style conservative governments have had higher taxes than now and plenty of old style conservative governments saw the benefits of public spending.

  6. Daphne’s Law of GA Comments Threads: as any GA comments thread progresses, the probability that a comment will blame housing/transport/environmental problems on IMMIGRANTS will reach 1.

    Corollary: The probability that the person making this comment will be an immigrant themselves, or at the very least Pakeha, is at least 0.95

        1. And regarding the comment about immigrants free to complain about immigrants (which they, of course, are), hypocrite would also be one to check on.

        2. No. I’m pretty clear on the meaning of both. Which is why I called out both your posts.

          let me know how you get on.

        3. If you don’t understand how applying race to a generalised accusation is racism then I can’t help you.

          Don’t really know what your accusation of hypocrisy Is all about.

    1. Choosing whether to blaming central government for flooding the country with immigrants selected on the basis of having lots of money or blaming local government for simultaneously making rules that killed off house construction is as pointless as trying to figure out if it is the left scissor or right scissor blade that cuts the paper.

      1. I disagree.
        It’s a supply-demand problem but we’re only allowed to talk about supply not demand because racist!

        If we can’t house the current population how are we supposed to house the current population + 40000?

        1. The view that immigration should be markedly lower can be a racist based view. Ie. Someone doesn’t like people of certain races, so doesn’t want them immigrating.

          But wanting much lower immigration is not automatically racist. There are very valid concerns around the ability of country’s infrastructure, housing and environment to absorb what is a very high rate of immigration by world standards.

        2. These are problems that NZ needs to take responsibility for failing to prevent rather than blame immigrants.
          Of Course: NZ CAN house the current population (which is actually very LOW by world standards). Part of it is we need to change our attitudes; for example, too many Kiwis refuse to acknowledge that there’s even a problem to begin with (because they bought their own house 40 years ago and paid off their mortgage).

        3. It’s not about blaming immigrants at all. But even with more efficient building etc. There are limits to our ability to cater for population growth.

        4. Those limits NZ has to being able to cater for population growth are all due to NZ’s own inadequacies!
          Amongst those inadequacies is this completely moronic idea that nothing in NZ should change so no new housing should be built and no more people should immigrate in.

          NZ’s population is VERY LOW and NZ is a developed nation with an advanced economy. There’s nothing physically holding the nation back from meeting this challenge or providing housing nor anything financial. The failures are all due to NZ itself; it’s attitudes, legislation, narrow-mindedness, etc.

        5. “It’s a supply-demand problem but we’re only allowed to talk about supply not demand because racist!”

          The only person who claimed racism was you?

      2. Taking recent figures and making some assumptions net immigration at current levels requires around 2000 homes per month (assuming a little over 2 per household, a gross simplification I know). Current construction is around 3100 per month. This would indicate we have recently started building enough houses. However within the past decade demand has been over 2600 per month when we were building only 1300 – 1600 per month. It is this overhang that created the shortage. This wont solve the 14000 on waiting lists as social housing makes up only a small part of those figures and they are not active in the market as the homes are not built for that demographic. It also doesn’t account for population growth within New Zealand so it would seem that recent historical immigration has played a part in this problem. The capacity no longer seems to exist to construct housing and general infrastructure at the levels required to solve these problems. Extrapolating early 1970s building figures based on population would have us building over 65000 homes per year. Legislative changes also mean we now front load all of the costs onto new housing whereas once costs were amortized over several decades. We have had one of the highest immigration rates in the world in the past decade it would be odd to assume it didn’t have some impact.

  7. If having adequate housing is any “human right”; it must be the most deprived human right on the planet!

    Adequate housing is NOT any right that people are entitled to as citizens, it is an earned privilege that people are responsible for acquiring for themselves.
    I completely agree with anyone that currently in NZ; earning this privilege has become too unattainable for too many younger people due to property value speculation and rubbish legislation and regulations that have allowed it. \But it’s going far too far to start pretending it’s some denied basic human right.

  8. It is probably overstating that having an adequate house is a basic human right. It certainly isn’t in most of the world.
    However here in New Zealand it has been an important part of the social contract between our people and our successive governments for most of the last hundred years.
    A social contract that has stood us incredibly well over that period, an integral part of our national well being. It does however comprimise the more extreme aspects of the pursuit of economic efficiency.
    Economic efficiency should dictate that those without the resources, or ability to pay their own way should quietly expire. Taken to its extreme eugenetics, but the declining life expectancy in the USA and static life expectancy in the UK against increasing life expectancy everywhere else in the world suggest that pursuit of economic efficiency has not enough room for compassion. Not a path I want in this country.
    There seems to be acceptance among an influential segment of our society, that private equals good and government equals bad.
    Yet the BNZ when fully government owned performed equal to it’s privately owned peers, but when privatised to the cream of NZ business elites rapidly descended towards failure, likewise Air New Zealand which then effectively renationalised quickly out performed just about every other airline for profitability. Many rail franchises in the UK have demonstrated the same failure and return to profitability pattern, one, the East Coast franchise twice!
    The Ministry of Works ably built a huge number of houses immediatly after the war.
    And yet the current iteration of Fletcher Construction can no longer price and build high rise profitably, in what was historically, a core competency of theirs.
    There are many many fully competitive businesses world wide that are state owned. The premise that governments can never do business efficiently does not stand scrutiny. We now need a new way of mass building houses, or is it just reviving the old way?

  9. +1.

    A lot would be solved by:

    1) Including the housing requirement in a/the bill of rights

    2) Freeing up the RMA

    3) Introducing a land tax/capital tax/capital gains tax

    4) Running the immigration rate that maximises gdp/capita and total welfare/capita growth (not total gdp)

    1. What’s total welfare / capita growth? I agree we should be clear on what we’re achieving with immigration, other than just making the gross GDP figures look good.

      1. Let me rephrase that. I do think there are many benefits, but I also think it’s an easy way of making the GDP figures look better than they are.

        1. Probably easiest to think of Total welfare as “Well-being” or the total well-being of society which captures all monetized and non monetized value, and thus also accounts for all externalities (e.g. air pollution).
          GDP is an essential measure but is very narrow in definition.

  10. Yes we can have the best rental property, as soon as rent can keep up to reflect on the cost.

    It is already very difficult for land lord to get a positive cash flow from the rent received against the costs.

    If we do not allow rent to increase by regulation such as rent control, most investor would exit the market and the supply will decrease.

    So at the end and you will find a lot of people couldn’t find a rental property, which is also against the Human rights.

    1. I think that equating landlords exiting the housing market with an increase in homelessness is just a convenient fallacy to justify the continuing tax advantages of real estate investment over other forms of investment.
      If a landlord sells an accomodation unit, that unit remains, it is just more likely the buyer will be an owner occupier. But no overall change in housing quantum.
      What are required are the mechanisms to build a lot lot more houses, and build them more efficiently to lower unit costs.
      The scale of new builds required requires a radical change in house building methods, changing from a cottage industry to mass standard design production. Everything from financing, component procurement, off and onsite production including labour procurement and training needs uprating. Combine the old MOW and State Advances housing unding and methodology, with modern materials and technologies

  11. I’m uneasy with declaring housing a right, but all the same homelessness is a problem I’d like to see solved.

    I see the proposal to make Kainga Ora an authorising authority has been in the news today. There are some issues to work through, but in principle I’m behind the idea. It could give social housing provision a real boost.

  12. Yes I think it is an excuse. If the real issue is overall housing stock then it shouldn’t be a problem.

    The government can handle the bottom level of rental demand that currently (or just up til very recently) an existing “slum lord” situation would “work” for them.

  13. To Daniel, Jezza and the others who kindly replied to my post on internal garages:

    It does happen – in the 40 years I lived in a Auckland South CBD unit I was
    burgled twice, confronted once in my garage, and had my car broken into twice at
    local shopping centres. I moved to Pukekohe 3 years ago, and have had one daylight
    burglary – I caught the guy and was going to whack him, but thought the better of it.
    1.80 metre fences ? I wish.

  14. What this article fails to mention is that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration, it is not legally enforceable. The US Supreme Court concluded that the Declaration “does not of its own force impose obligations as a matter of international law.”

    1. Hi Mike, you’re right, but there was more to the article as well which I edited out to keep things brief: “The right to a decent home is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, we celebrate the Declaration’s 71st anniversary. New Zealanders helped to draft this iconic document. Since then, New Zealand has signed up to several binding international treaties that include the right to a decent home”.

      1. “Since then, New Zealand has signed up to several binding international treaties that include the right to a decent home”
        Such as?

        1. I don’t know Daniel, im an economist not a human rights expert. Have a Google or ask the HRC. It seems unlikely they just made it up.

        2. Erm… …it’s not the human rights commission claiming that “New Zealand has signed up to several binding international treaties that include the right to a decent home”, it’s you.
          I offer no apology: This sounds like complete nonsense. But I’ll believe it if you provide credible evidence.

        3. I wasn’t the one saying it; it’s a quote from the Chief Commissioner of the HRC, first published in the Herald in December. Link to the full text on the HRC’s website provided in the original post.

  15. As many of you may have seen in the news this week (and mentioned in the post above), the UN’s representative on housing human rights has just completed a visit to NZ. Her report is available at and she will apparently be adding extra detail in a year’s time.

    I agree with almost all of the report except some of the proposed solutions, mainly paragraph 72 “providing for rental freezes in tight markets” and “innovative regulation [to] provide incentives for making vacant housing units available to low-income households”. These miss the point or are based on some wrong information, and both recommendations made it into the press release and much of the media coverage. A capital gains tax, of course, would be excellent subject to the detail. Unfortunately, both National and Labour have ruled this out.

    In some later posts this year I’ll try to consider how the human rights crisis could be ended while using better economics. There could well be a role for the HRC and economists across the spectrum to work together to better understand the different perspectives each bring, and start making serious progress.

  16. One issue that doesn’t seem to be discussed is the location side of things. While housing needs to have services, be free of polluted ground etc, the determination of where to live is more about desire than need. This is not just seen in NZ with people living in cars in Auckland, but elsewhere around the developed world (Vancouver, San Francisco, and LA all spring to mind). There are places for people to live, but they don’t want to move somewhere that they don’t have ties, and will have less amenities. So people’s choices and not wanting one inconvenience means that they’ll accepted other inconveniences, should this be government/society’s problem?
    One thing that is talked about is a sense of community and belonging, which is why we should keep people in the communities they are from. If communities are so strong then why does community not come together to help keep people local? Someone selling a house, sells for the best price they can get but there is nothing stopping them from selling for less to another local that is being forced out of the community due to high costs. If someone in a community is going to have to leave the community due to costs, others in the community could come to their aid with financial assistance and/or providing part of their house as accommodation. The reality is that very few will do these things and just expect the government to fix the problem.

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