The Level 3 Lowdown on Housing and Covid-19

A young girl with panda earmuffs holds a sign saying “Fill the Ghost Houses”
A group of young people holding signs in support of better housing solutions.
”Homes are for living not for profit” — photo by Vanessa Cole

We called on the government for:

An immediate amnesty from paying rent or mortgages, and a ban on all evictions throughout the covid-19 pandemic. This should be extended for a period afterwards to help people recover financially and emotionally.

What’s happened:

At the beginning of lockdown the government temporarily froze rent increases, banned most forms of evictions and gave renters the right to continue in tenancies during the lockdown.

Our reckons:

While these changes were welcomed, it doesn’t go far enough to be described as a ‘rent amnesty’ and does not protect renters in the long term.

Two women, one older, one younger holding a sign supporting the Emergency Housing Plan.
#EmergencyHousingPlan! — photo by Val.

We called on the government for:

Long term rent caps to enable people to recover financially, emotionally from covid-19.

What’s happened?

The government announced a rent freeze for six months, which meant that any scheduled rent increases could not go ahead. However, this froze rents at already extremely high levels. It also does not prevent landlords from increasing rents by a larger amount once the government lifts the rent freeze.

Our reckons:

1 in 4 households spend more than 40% of their income on rent. We are calling on the government to not just freeze rents but to put in place policies that will decrease rents. This can be done by legislating rent caps at a level so that nobody is paying more than 25 percent of their income on rent.

We called on the government to:

Buy unoccupied houses (ghost homes) and buildings on the private market for public housing for homeless people.

What’s happened?

Nothing at this time.

Our reckons:

While Kāinga Ora currently leases private housing from landlords and then rents it as public housing, this is not the same as our petition ask. It is also a massive transfer of wealth from the government to private landlords. Instead, these homes should be in public ownership to ensure long-term and secure housing for people now and for the future.

We called on the government to:

Remove all obligations to pay for the costs of temporary emergency housing, and reinstate this as a non-recoverable grant.

What’s happened?

Ministry of Social Development officials say people who need emergency housing at this time won’t have to pay, for now, from 23 March. After a 12 week period, the government will reconsider its decision to make Emergency Housing recoverable, at 25% of a person’s income.

Our reckons:

Emergency housing should never become a permanent solution. But until more public housing is acquired, the government should remove all barriers to accessing it. We support emergency and temporary housing to remain a non-recoverable grant so that nobody has to pay back costs from being homeless. People should not have to pay for short-term accommodation where there is no rental agreement.

Three people in their home smiling. Two are in wheelchairs and one holds a sign for safe, accessible housing.
“Accessible housing for all!” — photo by tripups

What does this mean as the alert level eases?

The ongoing effects of covid-19 will last some time. We need to be proactive and bold to ensure that people have a safe, secure, warm and dry roof over their head during recovery and beyond.

  • How will the government ensure that renters do not go into debt because of covid-19?
  • What secure and permanent housing will we provide for rough sleepers who have been put in emergency accommodation during lockdown?
  • How will we protect people in precarious housing during the economic recession?
  • What are the opportunities for mass builds of public rental homes and papakāinga construction to create more jobs?
  • People who rent should no longer have to struggle in the private market. What are the opportunities for public housing for more people?
A young girl with panda earmuffs holds a sign saying “Fill the Ghost Houses”
Manea says “Fill the Ghost Houses!” — photo by Jasmine.

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ActionStation

ActionStation

Community campaigning organisation bringing people together to act in powerful and coordinated ways to create a fair and flourishing Aotearoa for all.