Church leaders speak out on housing

Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, arrives for a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SYNOD-SECOND-REPORTS Oct. 14, 2015 and SYNOD-DEW Oct. 12, 2015.

Cardinal John Dew and Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson released a joint statement on April 12 in response to research reports released by the Housing Foundation.

The research showed benefits that come from home ownership in terms of health, employment, crime, welfare, education and economic outcome, as well as the fiscal benefits of transferring New Zealand renters into affordable home ownership.

A case study of a community assisted by the foundation was also reported on.

The statement by the Cardinal and the Archbishop is as follows:

“If you give New Zealanders the facts, most of us know what’s a fair deal. 

“Most of us have a gut instinct that owning a home makes us more secure and stable. And if we were pressed, we’d say that home ownership builds healthier and happier individuals, families, and communities.  

“The research released by the Housing Foundation today demonstrates that our instincts here are right.  

“Three pieces of distinct, inter-related research demonstrate a direct link between decent housing; and healthier, happier, stronger, more resilient individuals, families, and communities. 

“This research also confirms, beyond doubt, that the housing scene in New Zealand is radically different from what it was 25 years ago — and those changes are for worse, not for better.

“For example, the research shows that: 

• Between 1991 and 2015 the proportion of Kiwi households who owned their homes had shrunk from 74 per cent to 64 per cent.

• While over the same period the proportion of Kiwi households who rent had ballooned from 23 to 32 per cent. Those are Statistics New Zealand figures.

• And that’s saying nothing about the runaway cost of housing in our largest city, where today’s research shows that 115,000 renters can’t afford the median Auckland rent of $540 per week. We are at a tipping point.  

“Families are paying to live in places that are simply not fit to live in, places that make them and their children sick. There are no consequences for landlords, but significant consequences for all taxpayers who pick up the costs of the consequences. 

“Churches and church agencies up and down the country are directly supporting those who are struggling, and our people at the coalface tell us that things are not improving.  

“They are seeing more signs of need, greater levels of poverty, more stress, and a growing gap between those who have, and those who do not have. 

“This is an issue for all New Zealanders. We need to raise our voices in support of the right of everyone to a dry, warm, safe and secure home — and we call upon all political parties to provide policies that will deliver this. 

“We need to raise our voices against the ‘wisdom’ that suggests that market forces can and should meet the need.  Because this Housing Foundation research, and our experience, proves they do not.

“Councils, governments, private property owners, and   all have a role to play to make the housing system in New Zealand work better to meet the needs of all Kiwis.  

“We believe that every person is created in the image of God, and that every person has the right to flourish. But no-one in poverty can flourish. 

“Ensuring everyone has a dry, warm, safe and secure home is the single most important thing we can do to lift all New Zealanders out of poverty.

“A generation ago, owning your own home was an achievable aspiration for most New Zealanders.

 “We must not let that aspiration go — we must not sell off our Kiwi birthright.”

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NZ Catholic Staff

Reader Interactions



    Raising voices is not enough “against the ‘wisdom’ that suggests that market forces can and should meet the need.”
    I recognise the “welfare state” can engender an inflated sense of entitlement but property ownership/aspiration has never been a “Kiwi birthright.”
    The concern and sentiments are genuine and valid. The figures are malleable in terms of interpretation and application depending on perspective and agenda. The need “at the coal face” is real.
    Such need presents a grace and opportunity to ask ourselves as a Church: “How?”
    In practicable terms, HOW can WE be part of a SOLUTION(s) within a truly Catholic and/or ecumenical architecture, and what do WE have to offer?
    We CAN look to the early Christian communities and long history of corporate STEWARDSHIP;
    We CAN explore how this may be finessed to utalise the various financial tools, structures, strategies, resources and intelligence readily at our disposal and within us – to serve such need;
    We CAN take responsibility for mobilizing  and implementimg creative Christian solutions – together with demonstrable leadership and community;
    We CAN within this context manifest true expression – to borrow from Pope Francis – of “tenderness … and solidarity” in serving the interconnected and covenantal YOU within our ME.
    Your Eminence, it CAN start with a humble, confident, and even venacular: “We got this!” because “with God all things are possible” – and indeed, it already is!
    Finally, recall and animate John13:35.
    Blessings & Carpe diem!

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