Saturday, April 05, 2008

Boarding Houses

I haven't read the listener much since it became available in a soothing gel. The cover story of this weeks listener screams insipid nonsense, so you wouldn't know that one of the stories is so important it's worth buying the entire magazine (or reading in the supermarket). The article begins (the article will be available on-line after April 11):

In the winding backstreets of Mangere, where most New Zealanders will never go, there is a shameful secret. Here, in a South Auckland cul de sac, almost 1000 people live in a cluster of buildings that was once the Mangere hospital for the insane and intellectually handicapped, closed in 1994.

In an area of about a square kilometre, the buildings of the former institution have been turned into privately owned boarding houses.

Entire families – some with up to four children – live in rooms little more than three metres by four metres that were originally designed for single patients. Each boarding house has about 30 rooms, branching off long, lino-covered institutional hallways. There are a handful of toilets to cater for as many as 100 people. Showers are shared, as is the single stove in a communal kitchen
There has been a lot of media reporting recently about the housing crisis, and it almost entirely focuses on couples who each have a higher than average income, and yet still can't afford to buy their own home. The reality is that rapidly increasing house prices and rents mean real hardship.

The article is a fine piece of investigative journalism. David Fisher, the author, puts the stories of people who have no choice but to live in this foul accommodation front and centre. He also holds those who are responsible for the situation to account. He talks, in some detail, about the people who own these boarding houses, giving their names occupations, and their attempt to interview him. He also holds various government agencies who recommend these boarding houses to people, and advance money to pay for the bond. He lets the government condemn itself, with Maryann Street blaming the previous national government for selling off state houses (you can build quite a lot of houses in nine years).

Go find a copy of this weeks listener and read the article.


  1. Anonymous1:28 pm

    Hmm slightly better than Melbourne. There was a 70 room former maternity hospital in Carlton, one of the most expensive inner city suburbs, right next to the University of Melbourne. Melbourne Uni students have a crazy time finding anywhere to live, especially in a suburb full of $1M+ houses.

    A coalition of students occupied in protest of the lack of affordable housing. There was a core group of 20. The council responded by kicking them out, hiring security to keep them out. And then six months later bowled the place over.

    It now sits vacant.

    Housing affordability problems are caused by speculation on the market which artificially drives up prices. The most efficient way for this to happen is to leave a house vacant. Why go through the hassle of renting out a house to make $20k. When you could leave it vacant and help drive up the demand for housing, and sell it a year later for a $50k profit?

    The fact that the State (in all its manifestations) sits on a large chunk of land and contributes to this problem is a crime against humanity.

  2. Anonymous4:30 pm

    I'm not sure if the article mentions it - I haven't read it - but another issue is boarding houses frequently not being subject to the residential tenancies act, claiming the same exemption for short term accommodation which hotels etc have, but in practice acting as long term landlords. The tenants end up without the necessary legal protections and have to try and enforce them in much more complicated (and often expensive) ways than through the tenancy tribunal.