Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Housing for all?
It is hard to think that a council which recently spent close to $17 million purchasing four poperties throughout Christchurch has the audacity to reconsider a city-wide social housing scheme essential to those in most need. Mayor Bob Parker stated in The Star last week that because of the Christchurch City Councils' loss in court over its proposed 24% rent increase that "this is now the time for the council to reconsider it's future in social housing." According to the council, such an increase was needed to make sure those currently in council housing would foot the bill for ongoing improvements to their standard of living — however the previously consulted increase of 2.5% (Monday 17th March) had become 24% without due consultation, giving tenants, residents and ratepayers only 2-3 days warning of the proposed rates. This process was deamed inadequate and the propsed rate increase was forced to be put on hold. It seems the council's answer to this decision and therefore the problem of making sure people have somewhere to live is the increase in rent, or a complete pull-out of the scheme.
The fact that the council is seemingly unwilling to explore alternative ways to fund a social housing scheme, while at the same time embracing retail development and suburban gentrification at the price of $17m, should come as no suprise to those living in Christchurch. Nor is it no suprise that those very people marginalised and misplaced by the capitalist system are the same ones forced to pay for it's discrepencies — while those privileged enough to own two houses themselves are the same few with the power to end such a scheme of social nature. Alas, such are ways of an illogical and unjust economic system.
There are alternative models which could solve this 'problem'. The council could simply divert funds away from retail aquisitions into the housing scheme — however, this would involve a rather radical change in the thinking and priority that currently prevails in the CCC, and more importantly, Bob Parker. A middle ground could also be found, involving exploration and co-operation between tenants, the council and industry in finding a way to uphold the universal human right of housing for all. Both these options would at least solve issues in the short term. But if the problem is more than a rent increase and actually a symptom of the current capitalist system itself — a system where class divides our lives and our dwellings, where anything short of community and workplace self-management is submission and servitude, where profit always, always, comes before people — then any short term fix is simply a band-aid solution, when what we really need is some serious social surgery.