The housing crisis, left unchecked, will collide with the country’s ageing population to create unprecedented social dislocation in years ahead, a professor of public health says.
Otago University’s Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman said a largely unexplored dimension of the housing “crisis” involved how falling or stagnant home ownership rates would impact the elderly.
“The [elderly] are not going to be ageing in one place. They’re going to be moved around like everyone else,” she said.
The percentage of owner-occupied households in this country plunged to 64.8 per cent in 2013, the lowest rate since 1951.
Louise Rees, of Age Concern New Zealand, said that when rents go up, older people tend to cut down spending on socialising and transport, meaning that they become lonely and socially isolated.
“Living in rental accommodation may also result in older people moving more often, and losing contact with established neighbours and friends.”
One Age Concern member said she sold her Wellington home several years ago, went renting, and soon found rising prices put private ownership beyond her reach. She had moved five times in nine years.
Economist Shamubeel Eaqub, of Sense.Partners, said inadequate housing was causing this country’s biggest current socioeconomic problem.
The situation stemmed from a flawed Government model, where the “siloisation” of funding meant public agencies competed for money, he said.
“It’s fundamentally flawed when you’ve got this sense of separation and competition within the public sector.”
The housing shortage was most acute in Auckland, Wellington, and Queenstown, Eaqub said.
“The challenge within the context of this is we haven’t been building a lot of state houses for decades now.”
Under-investment since the 1990s had combined with insufficient private developments, he said. “An immediate improvement we can make is to scale up social housing supply.”
Otago University Professor of Public Health Michael Baker, a housing and infectious diseases expert, said soaring house prices, inadequate supply, and mouldy, poorly-ventilated, cold homes would “further exacerbate the consequences of poverty.”
Overseas examples showed public housing could be warm, but Kiwis needed a warrant of fitness-type of standard that was considerably stronger than existing measures, he said.
By 2035, more than 1.25 million New Zealanders will be aged over 65.
Minister for Seniors Maggie Barry said about 12,000 of Housing NZ’s “primary tenants” were 65 or over and local authorities provided homes for 11,000 older people
Barry said seniors could access the accommodation supplement and the rates rebate scheme.
“The Government’s Comprehensive Housing Plan is focused on creating more affordable, high-quality homes for all New Zealanders, including older people.”
On Monday, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith said the new National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity would slow price rises and make houses more affordable.