Families 'make do' amid house crisis

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 07:45 13/02/2013

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The housing bubble in Auckland, brought on by a lack of available homes, demands a bigger response from Government, the Salvation Army says.

In its state of the nation report yesterday, it rates housing, social hazards, crime and punishment, employment and children's lives.

Despite there being some success at reducing the crime rate and increasing overall participation rates in early childhood education, the report found a ''making-do, getting-by sentiment in some vital areas of social policy and human need''.

Salvation Army spokesman Major Campbell Roberts said New Zealand had not learnt from history and did not have the leadership needed to overcome problems.

Report author Alan Johnson said the New Zealand housing crisis was almost a "tale of two cities". There were not enough houses being built for the city's population growth.

Currently only about a quarter of all houses being built in the country were in Auckland - this needed to be more like half. As a result the value of house prices to median income was increasing and was reaching a similar point to its peak in 2010.

"That's of concern arguably getting back to a peak that was quite exceptional in historic terms."

The housing market was increasingly about the "haves" and "have nots", the Salvation Army said.

"Government's response to these difficulties has been token at best."

However, Roberts said the idea behind the report was not to denounce political leaders.

"Rather, it is a reflection that we get the leaders we deserve.''

With almost 300,000 people jobless and 150,000 others moving to Australia since 2007, alarm bells should be ringing, Roberts said.

"Instead the Government remained focused on reducing its deficit and opposed to increasing taxes."

Since the financial crisis in late 2007 the New Zealand economy had "crawled", he said.

Child poverty, youth unemployment, and housing had suffered and ''more tax dollars'' were needed to fund solutions.

The report found child poverty rates were static over the past year and violent offences towards children increased by 84 per cent in the five years to July 2012. It also showed a widening gap between achievement rates of students in low decile schools compared to those in richer areas. 

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the report made depressing reading.

''Findings of escalating violence against children, unaffordable housing and evidence that poorer kids are falling behind at school show families are under enormous stress."

The findings showed the need for urgent changes in Government policy, she said. ''There is nothing more important than the safety of children, and there are fewer factors that influence their opportunity to lead a good life than a stable home and a good education.''

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- Auckland Now

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