Child Poverty Action Groups says New Zealand could do much more to ensure sure all children grow up in warm, dry, secure homes.
In a policy paper on the impact of the housing market on children released today, CPAG says major investment and intervention is required to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing for low and moderate income families, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch.
Housing Spokesperson Alan Johnson said, "At present, it's the luck of the draw for families - their housing fortunes depend very much on which suburb, town or city they happen to live in."
Christchurch and Auckland have been badly affected by rent increases in recent years, while other areas in New Zealand have not fared so badly. South Auckland and Christchurch East are under particular stress. For the whole of New Zealand, rents have increased by around 11% since 2009, around the same as Consumer Price Index inflation. However, Christchurch rents have increased by 20% to 30% over the past five years, with almost all of this increase since the 2011 earthquakes. In Auckland, rents appear to be rising about 10% faster than incomes, and have increased by 17% in nominal terms between 2009 and 2013, with most of this increase occurring since 2010.
Alan Johnson said, "Low income is a major barrier for families and rising house prices mean increasing numbers of families are unlikely to ever own a house of their own." Nearly 70% of children in poverty are in Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) or private rentals.
"Unfortunately families who are renting experience face high and increasing house rents, the quality of the rental properties is substandard and deteriorating, and the rental market provides few rights and protections for renters."
Inadequate housing has long term consequences for people's health and children are especially vulnerable. Damp housing is related to respiratory conditions in both adults and children. Mould is more likely to grow in damp houses, and has been shown to have a small, but significant respiratory effect on children. Household crowding increases the risk of infectious diseases, and people on low incomes living in poorly constructed housing may be unable to heat the indoor environment to healthy levels.
CPAG has made six recommendations which would significantly improve the provision of housing for children and families, including building an additional 1,000 social housing units per year in areas of high need, and introducing a Housing Warrant of Fitness for all rental houses which covers a wide range of indicators including social provision such as access to green space and quality public schools.
The issues around housing are complicated and need long-term solutions, which is why CPAG recommends a cross-party agreement on a child-focused policy framework for the future of housing.
Housing market changes and their impact on children is the fourth in a series of CPAG policy papers, called Our Children, Our Choice, being released in the lead up to the 2014 election with recommendations for policy change to alleviate child poverty.
Download the full report here: Housing market changes and their impact on children