Our sympathies go out to Tenoch King and her husband, Mark Steadman. The couple emigrated to New Zealand three years ago, Mr Steadman is a relief secondary school teacher from Australia and his American wife is a graduate and is working part time.
They bought an old, uninsulated 1914 villa (wooden) in Port Chalmers* with a Housing New Zealand supported ‘Welcome Home’ Loan, a type of loan that helps lower-income people buy their first home.
Unfortunately under the terms of their agreement they are not permitted to borrow additional funds for improvements to the house, not even to install much needed home insulation in a house that must be an ice box in the winter.
According to an article printed in the Dom Post the couple can’t take advantage of a home insulation scheme aimed at low income households and they feel they are discriminated against for being poor, something they blamed on NZ’s low wage economy.
If it was not for New Zealand’s low-wage economy, the couple would not need state assistance, Ms King said. Taking out a personal loan instead would incur a higher rate of interest than their home loan.
Preventing assisted borrowers topping up their mortgage essentially excluded them from a scheme designed to help them. This discriminated against the poor and created a blanket rule which did not take into account individual circumstances, she said. Without insulation, people had to pay for extra electricity they could not afford.
Which is a bit rich when government ministers are spending $22,000 on (tax payer funded) tours of Europe, porn films and chocolates. Furthermore, why are HNZ helping to loan money to poor people in the first place, rather than offer them good quality rental accommodation, free of the financial burden of home maintenance?
And surely it makes good sense to allow them top ups to improve the comfort and value of their investment, e.g. insulation; why must they be forced to sit and freeze? Not only will a well insulated home help them cut back on heating fuel costs but it’s also good for the environment. But the nanny state knows what’s best for them, so in a cold and uninsulated home they shall remain.
We wonder if the couple ever imagined that moving to New Zealand would leave them in a poverty trap three years down the line. If they had their time again would they have done things differently, would they still have chosen New Zealand?
The Welcome Home scheme allows people to borrow up to $200,000 with no deposit and up to $280,000 with a deposit of just 15% of the amount above $200,000, in some areas this is extended up to $350,000. However, the advance comes not from HNZ but from a range of financial institutions including Kiwibank, NBS and some credit unions.
For two borrowers the maximum yearly income must be below $85,000 before tax.
*Port Chalmers is a suburb of Dunedin, the temperature there at present is 2°C, with a maximum of 9°C forecast for tomorrow.
Two recent reports have again highlighted poor health and welfare outcomes for children in New Zealand, with disease patterns that are closer to those of developing countries. If you’re thinking about emigrating to New Zealand and raising kids this may make interesting reading.
The Public Health Advisory Committee’s report The Best Start in Life re-iterated that New Zealand ranked 29th out of 30 developed countries for child health and safety.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei commented on them by saying (source)
“We have some of the worst child health outcomes in the OECD…The report shows that we urgently need an integrated, whole-of-government approach to child health and wellbeing and a commitment to child health monitoring.”
The second report Children’s Housing Futures, showed that children’s housing in New Zealand was worse than the OECD average and many were living in poor quality, insecure and crowded premises. One estimate is that a quarter of a million homes in New Zealand are so damp, cold and poorly insulated that they ruin people’s health.
According to Ms Turei
“last month’s budget was going to make the situation worse — a GST increase (to 15%) that would put pressure on low income families, tax cuts that would widen the gap between rich and poor, and funding cuts which would increase the cost of early childhood education.”
New Zealand is one of the few OECD countries to place GST on essential items such as food.
The nation’s young people have a pretty rought time of it, they have some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world. New Zealand youth have higher rates of mental illness, suicide, teen pregnancy and suffered more injuries than young people in other OECD countries.
UNICEF ranks New Zealand joint third in the world for the highest number of child maltreatment deaths (1.2 per 100,00o children) only the US and Mexico have more (source)
New Zealand youth also feature highly in road fatalities. For Kiwi youth aged 0-14 it is the highest in the OECD. For youth aged 15-17 New Zealand comes second, just behind Slovenia.
The organisation Every Child Counts said the Best Start in Life report should set off alarm bells (source) we think those bells have been ringing loud and clear for some time already.
For years now OECD comparisons, Unicef reports and New Zealand Government reports have highlighted the need for concerted action to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealand children,” said chairman Murray Eldridge. “It is particularly alarming that the report states that disease patterns here are closer to those of developing countries.”
Mr Eldridge said there was ample evidence that unemployment, welfare dependency, violence and ill-health were linked to deprivation in early years.
“We have all the evidence we need to make a robust social and economic case for prioritising children and investing in them in a co-ordinated, structured and long-term way,” he said.
“Failure to do so will mean we face high costs in the future for remedial education, mental and physical health services, youth justice, social welfare and reduced productivity.”
We rate the chances of it happening from slim to none, the recent raise in GST and cutbacks in mental health services, tax cuts for the wealthy and other government policies will do nothing other than widen the poverty gap in New Zealand, storing up trouble for years ahead.
The unfortunate Lagomalo family having been living in a 3 bedroomed house in Universal Drive, Henderson since 2006. This week they are being forced from their rented $380 a week home, according to an article in the Western Leader.
Why are they being “forced out” because there’s 13 of them living in the privately owned property and it’s overcrowded? No, not according to the article.
It’s because the house had just been condemned by Waitakere City Council inspectors because it is uninhabitable, the owners have been given until 8 March to make sure the building is vacated.
The family, which is on a waiting list for a state home, have endured conditions in the house that were so bad that their health was adversely affected. They’ve put up with fungus, rotting timber and leaking pipes for some time, the owner seems to have known about it since at least last May.
Why it has taken the council so long to condemn the building is unknown but with around 100 dangerous and uninhabitable buildings to deal with a year we can only assume that these things take time.
It’s strange that there’s no mention in the article what is to become of the Lagomalo family, whether their impending eviction has got them to the top of the list for state housing or even if the family will be able to stay together. Are they to be put out on the street?
$380 a week doesn’t buy you much does it, even in a place like Henderson. $380 for living in what seems to be little more than an overcrowded slum and their private sector landlord is given nothing other than a condemnation notice, even though she was fully aware of the living conditions in the home? Something is very wrong here.
If you want to put this into some form of perspective read Migrant Stories – A British Canadian’s Perspective. A migrant has this to say of her living accommodation in New Zealand:
“Housing – Oh my gosh, we have lived in many Countries, but NZ has to have the worst housing in the world. It’s just like living in a shed at the bottom of your garden. No heating, no insulation and no double glazing and for this you can pay $350 A WEEK, yes we did. I am not exaggerating here, most of the garages in the UK are better heated and insulated than the houses in NZ. The 1st house we rented was only 7 years old, no heating whatsoever, little insulation and no double glazing. Double glazing has only just been introduced as a requirement for new builds this year, so houses pre 2009 do not have double glazing and houses are cold! Mould is common place in 90% of all houses because the condensation is incredible. You will need to run a dehumidifier constantly and we bought oil filled radiators for heat because they were the cheapest source of heating if there is no wood burner and our electricty bill for ONE MONTH was $400!”
The New Zealand General Social Survey interviewed 8721 people from April 2008 to March 2009. Half of people questioned said they were having major problems with housing; most of them were concerned over heating, the size of their homes and neighbourhood noise. Many of them were also having problems with the quality of their homes.
The Housing Minister of the day said the Government was “investing heavily in upgrading the “slum” standard of its 68,000 Housing New Zealand properties, and changes to the Residential Tenancies Act would help improve the results in the next survey.”
If the Lagomalo family are waiting for a state house let’s hope they’re getting one of the upgraded ones.
To find out more about poor housing conditions in New Zealand read “The high winter death rate and burning wood to keep warm – the average NZ house is described as ‘scarily cold’ and many are compared to refugee camp huts. A study estimated that occupants’ health has been ruined in 250,000 New Zealand homes and that both old and new houses were affected. The houses were so cold, damp and poorly built that they caused serious health problems. It’s estimated that it will cost $20 billion to put it right.