A couple of weeks back the Dear Leader decided to indulge in yet more of her virtue signalling with a ‘climate emergency’ declaration by her MPs in Parliament. Even Greta Thunberg was unimpressed with that.

What is unquestionably an emergency, however, is housing. Right now people are scrambling for places to live. WW follows the real estate market and the number of houses available in Kapiti has shrunk substantially over the past year, a trend which had become obvious even before the coronavirus flap. We suspect many houses for sale aren’t even listed, buyers are lined up already.

New figures show the nationwide median price is now about $750,000, and in Auckland it is above $1 million. Home ownership rates are at a seven-decade low.

There has been plenty said about the causes, although it’s pretty clear that one of the major ones has been the Reserve Bank cutting interest rates to almost zero. Retirees and others finding themselves with no income on their savings have switched to buying investment houses, and not all of them are rented out — the certain capital gain is enough of a return. The Reserve Bank has to restore interest rates back to where they have been in recent years to stop this.

But the stock of housing needs to be increased too, and preferably not in the form of American-style trailer (caravan) parks. KiwiBuild was a flop; the government has (hopefully) learned its lesson that new government bureaucracies are not the answer. But the costs of new construction are very high and local councils must take their share of the blame for that — another reason to support Cr Gwynn Compton’s call for a Royal Commission on local government.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) — which stood candidates in both the 2017 and 2020 elections without gaining seats — has started a petition asking the government to declare a housing emergency:

“Our Housing Crisis is a social and economic disaster. The rising cost of housing is the biggest driver of poverty and inequality in New Zealand.  We have seen the social housing waitlist quadruple over the past three years. There are now over 21,000 families waiting for housing. Rents have been rising faster than incomes for 30 years. We have declining homeownership, which is now the lowest it has been since 1951, with an entire generation of renters locked out of homeownership.

“We must as a nation, stop seeing housing as a get rich quick scheme. Housing is shelter. It is for you our leaders to declare this.”