Category Archives: Action

Election 2020: Green Party and The Opportunities Party support introduction of rent caps

Mandy Te, stuff.co.nz, 17 September 2020

The Green Party and The Opportunities Party have announced they will both support the introduction of rent caps which would limit the amount a landlord could increase rent.

At the Enough for All: Election Forum 2020 event in Wellington Central on Wednesday evening, a renter called Zoe told politicians about her renting experience in the capital city.

“In 2017, I moved into an eight-bedroom flat in central Wellington – nine of us lived there in order to make it affordable, and we shared a rent of $1600 per week,” she said.

“My rent for a room that could charitably be called a shoebox room was $205 a week which was more than half my income at the time.”

Affording the rent was stressful for Zoe and her flatmates – many had taken on one or more jobs while studying to cover it.

“It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence that me and my flatmates needed to often cover for our other flatmates because of the inability to pay rents on time.”

While they managed to make their payments every week, Zoe said their home was not warm or dry.

“In our first winter in the flat, I began to notice black mould on my ceiling.”

A month later, the roof in her room began to leak and later, pour, she said.

The flat was offered $200 in compensation.

Zoe said their rent was hiked up year after year – in 2018, it was $1700 per week and in 2019, it was put up to $1800.

To make rent affordable, 11 people were living in the property.

In February, the flat was told their rent was going up again by $200 – making it $2000 a week.

“Obviously we moved out because it was unaffordable and over that same period, my income and the same with my flatmates’ [income] had barely gone up.”

Renters needed action now, she told politicians.

“My question to you is: until the rental housing supply kicks up with demand, does your party support introducing rent caps to limit the amount by which landlords can raise rent?”

Green Party candidate Ricardo Menéndez-March says “we need to make sure landlords are not ripping us off in the middle of a housing crisis” (File photo).

Ricardo Menéndez-March from the Green Party said it supported “to legislate to ensure secure and affordable long-term rental accommodation”.

“I do think we need to we need to make sure landlords are not ripping us off in the middle of a housing crisis.”

It was “absolutely unfair” for people to be spending most of their income on rent and “people here are going without because of high rents”.

National Party’s Nicola Willis acknowledged that there was a massive housing challenge in Wellington but the party would not support the introduction of rent caps.

“We have to increase the supply of housing that’s why we’re committing to replacing and appealing the Resource Management Act … we believe that kind of systemic reform gets to the nub of our housing issue which comes down to not enough houses to keep up with demand. When we solve that, then rents and house ownership become more affordable.”

Taylor Arneil from New Zealand First said it advocated for the building of more homes instead of introducing rent caps.

Labour Party’s Andrew Little said it did not support introducing rent caps.

Labour Party’s Andrew Little says it had inherited a housing crisis from the previous Government (File photo)

“This Government has done a number of things. We have regulated what landlords can and cannot do or need to do in terms of quality of housing and many things are starting to kick in,” he said.

The Labour Party had inherited a housing crisis from the previous Government which had reduced the country’s state housing stock, he said.

The current Government had added to social housing, he said.

“There is more to do and Kiwibuild hasn’t been the success we would have hoped it might be, but we have built houses that are more affordable for more people, and we need to continue through things likes progressive home ownership schemes,” Little said.

The Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons said housing was the biggest issue facing New Zealand.

“To solve this problem we need to hold house prices and rents stable for another generation to allow our incomes to catch up,” Simmons said.

“So this is a massive, massive challenge – it is going to take lots of different actions to do that.”

Anna Mooney, spokeswoman for Renters United, a group that advocates for renters and has begun a petition for fair rent, said it was unfortunate “National, Labour and NZ First are offering no solutions to runaway rents other than increasing supply”.

“That will take decades, while renters fall deeper into hardship,” Mooney said.

“Renters United wants to see rent caps in which landlords cannot raise rent by more than inflation. This is the only way to stop rents from becoming more unaffordable.”

Labour’s Living Wage Policy “Real Victory” For Low Wage Workers

Press Release: E tū

12 September 2020

E tū congratulates the Labour Party for saying yes to a Living Wage for all contracted workers in government.

The Government currently pays the Living Wage to all workers in the public service. However, the new policy would see contractors, such as cleaners, security guards and caterers, now included.

It was announced by the party’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson, Andrew Little, and Economic Development spokesperson, Phil Twyford, at E tū in Auckland on Saturday.

E tū member Rose Kavapalu, who has worked for 15 years as a cleaner on just above minimum wage, says she is so thankful to Labour for promising a Living Wage for her and all cleaners in the sector.

“I’ll only have to work one job, and I’ll have more time to spend with my family and my grandkids.

“With the Living Wage, I’ll be able to pay my debt – that’s why I had to move in with my parents because I couldn’t afford [to live].”

Read the full press release here

Labour’s Welfare Policies Welcome But Silence On Children Disappointing

Press Release: Child Poverty Action Group

12 September 2020

The Child Poverty Action Group today warmly welcomed the Labour Party’s policies to reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) for sole parents undertaking tertiary level study and to make part-time paid work more worthwhile for families on benefits – but warned that Labour’s pledges would not help many of the children in entrenched poverty.

“For years, CPAG has been calling for this policy on the TIA and for abatement thresholds to be raised significantly and then indexed to wages,” says CPAG economist Susan St John. “So it’s good to see these vital and sensible policies announced today.”

Parents are best-placed to make decisions for their own families, and CPAG believes the policies are likely to empower and increase the agency of those parents who are in a position to consider training or part-time work.

“But there should be no delay. The policies need to be implemented immediately as a response to the deepening recession,” says St John. “Sometimes Labour announces social welfare policy nearly a year before it’s brought in. This cannot happen in this case; these employment-support measures must be brought in promptly, as was done with the wage subsidy and the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment.”

Read the full press release here

Winter energy payments ending: ‘I don’t know what I am going to do’

Debrin Foxcroft, Stuff, Sep 09 2020

Widowed pensioner Kathleen Chase has a serious heart condition and says the end of the winter energy payment on October 1 means she will struggle to keep her Housing New Zealand flat warm.

During winter, she has relied on the weekly winter energy payment to cover most of her power bill for her small Christchurch flat.

Chase said she worried about what the end of the $40 a week payment would mean as she battled on her single pension to make ends meet.

“I really struggle with power costs during the winter, even with the winter energy payment,” she said.

Read the full article here

Labour’s ultra-cautious tax policy will be a relief to the wealthy

Tom Pullar-Strecker, Stuff, Sep 09 2020

ANALYSIS: Labour’s long-awaited tax policy will come as a relief to the wealthy but risks frustrating the party’s traditional supporters.

The party had been widely expected to announce a new top rate of income tax and setting that at a non-scary rate of 39 per cent is good politics; 40 per cent would have sounded so much worse.

But Labour has been more cautious than expected in deciding that the new tax rate would only kick in on income above $180,000, capturing just 2 per cent of earners.

Read the full article here

The money-printing programme helping the rich get richer

Damien Grant, www.stuff.co.nz, 6 September 2020

OPINION: Last week the Reserve Bank printed $1.4 billion. That’s the equivalent of 116 Green Schools at the prevailing rate. This was a typical week.

No one cared. There were no headlines. No one asked for Adrian Orr to resign.

$1.4b is the equivalent of $280 for every New Zealander. In a single week.

Last week the Reserve Bank printed $1.4 billion. (File photo)

Did you see any of that money? Probably not. So you may wonder, where is all of this cash going?

Orr hinted at the effect of this spend-up at a speech to the Victoria University School of Government last week.

“We acknowledge that lower interest rates inflate asset prices, which is a transmission mechanism that monetary policy works through. Higher house prices, for example, make people feel wealthier, more inclined to spend, which supports the economy.”

Orr’s money-printing programme is making the rich richer in the hope that they will spend some of this cash on frivolities like restaurant meals and herbal supplements, thus benefiting those minions who provide such services who are able to retain their jobs.

This is trickle-down economics.

By printing cash, Orr is allowing Wellington to spend money without the irritating detail of taxing or borrowing it. $1.4b on an annualised basis is $72b, about 80 per cent of pre-Covid government spending.

Read the full article here

Messaging on Income and Wealth Inequality

This is a “high-income nation”: No one should be worrying about how to afford the essentials.

High income nations like ours can afford a decent life for all, where every whānau can thrive, not just survive. But here, for many, it’s not currently being realised. Too many young people live in households where they feel hopeless.

Read our full document below for key messages, and for questions to challenge political candidates with this election.

Covid 19 coronavirus: White New Zealanders more likely to get new, more generous benefit

Isaac Davison, NZ Herald, 31 August 2020

Beneficiary advocate Kathleen Paraha said the two-tier welfare system created during Covid was unfair on those who had lost their jobs before the pandemic. Photo / Dean Purcel

White New Zealanders are much more likely to get a new, more generous welfare payment introduced in response to Covid-19.

The Government was warned that it was creating a “two-tier” welfare system which could potentially worsen racial inequality when it introduced the higher, tax-free, more accessible benefit in May.

The Covid Income Relief Payment (CIRP) of $490 a week was worth nearly twice as much as a single person’s unemployment benefit. Unlike most existing benefits, it was also available to people whose partners were earning – as long as that partner was making no more than $2000 a week.

When introduced, the Government said it was to “cushion the blow” for people who had an unexpected, sharp drop in income – but denied it was middle class welfare.

Welfare advocates said the policy gave the impression that long-term beneficiaries were less deserving than middle-class people who had just lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Maori households are over-represented in the long-term beneficiary category, and the National Party said that making the new benefit permanent could worsen racial inequality in the welfare system.

Ministry of Social Development (MSD) data released last week gives a snapshot of who has received the Covid Income Relief Payment so far. European New Zealanders (43 per cent) were claiming it at nearly three times the rate of Maori (16 per cent).

That contrasts with the less generous unemployment benefit. In the period since Covid arrived in New Zealand, Maori and European New Zealanders have received Jobseeker Support at a similar rate (35 per cent).

Auckland Action Against Poverty advocate Kathleen Paraha said beneficiaries she worked with all felt they were being “ripped off” when the Covid relief payment came in.

“It’s just not fair – it’s a two-tier thing,” she said

Paraha, who is herself on the Supported Living Payment, said beneficiaries constantly battled to get grants for food and other costs because core benefits did not pay enough.

Her organisation had applied for food grants for 16 people on Friday alone – all were declined.

Mangere East Family Services CEO Peter Sykes said jobless in his suburb were mostly casual workers and did not qualify for the more generous benefit payments. Photo / Greg Bowker

Mangere East Family Services CEO Peter Sykes said it was particularly frustrating for long-term beneficiaries who were competing in the same job market as newly jobless.

“The core poor remain poor and remain quite distrustful of the system,” he said. “Now, all of a sudden, people can just send an email and get a payment. Most of our community doesn’t believe it.”

Many of the people in his suburb were casual workers in hospitality and home care and did not qualify for the Covid payment when they lost their jobs. The payment has a minimum hours requirement.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni stressed that the Covid payment was a short-term measure for an unprecedented crisis. Furthermore, many people found they were better off on a benefit than the temporary payment because of additional support they could be eligible for.

“People take a number of factors into account when applying for support,” Sepuloni said.

“For example their ability to work part time, termination pay, or they may consider the stability of an established payment like a benefit, instead of going on to a temporary payment like CIRP.”

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said some jobless were better off on a benefit than the new Covid payment, because of the additional support they could get. Photo / Mark Tantrum

Another rationale for the Covid payment is that those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic are more likely to be mortgage-holders. If a large number of people defaulted on their mortgages it could significantly increase the economic impact of the pandemic.

Max Rashbrooke, a researcher who specialises in economic inequality, said there could be a potential upside to the new Covid payment. In countries where people were paid more in benefits if they earned more, there tended to be more support for the broader welfare system.

“Increased payments for middle-class households can lead to more political room to increase payments to genuinely poor households,” Rashbrooke said.

“It’s plausible that if they feel like they’re getting more out of the welfare state, they are then more likely to feel some sense of ownership over the system and feel more kinship with other people who are receiving welfare payments. That’s the optimistic take, from an inequality point of view”.

The Government lifted core benefits by $25 a week (13 per cent) in response to Covid, though that was at the bottom end of the 12-47 per cent increase recommended by a Welfare Expert Advisory Group last year.

The expert group found that core benefits were between $100 and $300 a week lower than recipients needed to pay their bills and live with dignity.

Messaging on Income and Wealth Inequality

How to sell the message that income and wealth inequality in Aotearoa needs to be reduced

The focus must be on the key message ie the problem, inequality. Inequality is the gap between the rich and the poor. The increase in inequality in NZ over the last 35 years has happened because our politicians built an economy that delivered the bulk of its rewards to those who already had plenty and delivered an unfair proportion to those at the bottom ie the low waged and beneficiaries.

Read in full here