Hehir on Kainga Ora

Liam Hehir writes:

Ronald Reagan said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Fast forward to present-day New Zealand and we have a new champion in the scary nine word category: “We’re Kāinga Ora and we are your new neighbours.”

Sadly this is true. It is probably fair to say that some people have always been unenthusiastic about having state houses as neighbours, but most accepted that it is important to have social housing for those in need. But that goodwill has been destroyed by the free reign given abusive tenants over the last six years.

The National-led government now wants to strike a different balance. Quite naturally, political and media opponents are horrified by the idea. The idea that somebody would lose their state subsidised house just because they menace their neighbours with a axe, however, does not seem so unreasonable to most people.

I’ve not even bothered to poll on this, because it is obvious 85%+ would agree.

Consequences for badly behaved Kāinga Ora tenants inevitably involves the harsh reality that some of these individuals will become homeless. They may be driven to seek temporary shelter with family or friends, a solution that’s not only temporary but can also strain personal relationships and resources. In the worst case scenario, they may end up living in a garage or a car. 

But this outcome was not caused by the government. Provided that there is a fair process involved, the outcome was the result of their abusive behaviour. It sometimes feels as if the left think of social housing tenants as livestock rather than people, as if they were not in control of their ability to threaten to kill their neighbour’s dog and burn down her house.

Exactly., You can simply decide not to abuse your neighbours.

Children, of course, are often the innocent victims in this scenario. Nobody chooses their parents. The loss of a home underlines the impact of adult decisions on the youngest and most defenceless members of society. 

It does not follow that we must enable abusive tenants, however, as if their children are a human shield that gives them immunity from minimal standards of acceptable behaviour. If an ordinary renter or homeowner breaks the covenants of their tenancy or mortgage then the fact that they have children does not entitle them to continue living in their home forever.

In the case of Kāinga Ora tenants, the parents have the benefit of having the government as a landlord and below market rents. Parents who are willing to jeopardise that by using the place for gang meetings, in full knowledge of the consequences, are unfit parents.

We need to accept that turning this situation around may require significant bolstering of the already unfunded foster care system. If our first concern is to secure children’s material needs, those are not likely to be provided by such irresponsible people. Greater levels of intervention than the provision of a home is required.

Sadly also true. If you’re a kid in a household where the adults threaten to kill the neighbours, then the biggest issue isn’t your house – it is your parents.

In the meantime, the Green Party’s ongoing support for abusive tenants points to a warped sense of morality. Tamatha Paul says the government’s policies amount to a “coalition of cruelty punishing people for being poor” which is a misrepresentation that obscures the real issues that social housing providers and neighbours must grapple with. 

Being provided with a house at a subsidised rent, with the expectation of basic civil behaviour, is not a punishment for being poor. It is a form of generous support for the poor by the community. 

If you are evicted after attacking the maintenance man with a blunt weapon, you have not been punished for being poor. You have been punished for shocking violence against someone trying to maintain the house you have been provided with.

The Greens values are so warped on this.

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