Some of the responses to the plight of Niki Rauti, who is threatened with eviction from her state home in Glen Innes, in the New Zealand Herald and elsewhere have been mean-spirited, misinformed, and have at times made assumptions that are downright racist. People have pointed out that she has been offered five other places to live which might sound quite reasonable to some, but it disregards the fact that none of them are as good or suitable as the one she’s in now, and it ignores the reason the government wants her to move, which is to sell off state housing for private profit.. Some have said it’s not her home but the NZ taxpayer’s, missing the point that that is the purpose of state housing – she originally moved in after working all her life to look after her sick mother and now has a heart condition herself. Many of the remarks have been harsh and heartless and made false and unfair assumptions about her. A hostile TV One news reporter implied Niki was being selfish for resisting efforts to rebuild on her land because ‘we’re in the middle of a housing crisis’, seeming not to understand that it was the government that caused the housing crisis and is, by stealth, continuing on the same course which will make it worse.
Most have not addressed or are unaware of the reasons behind the government (and the government-owned redevelopment company) wanting to push people out of state houses. This is not to build more state houses for the people who need them, as claimed, but to make huge profits for property developers on what is seen as desirable land with sea views, in the process ‘gentrifying’ the area. The new, flash houses being built will be unaffordable to the people living there now, and it is telling that none of people being evicted have even been offered the option of buying them. Thousands of houses have been left empty, waiting for the prices to rise to the million dollar mark, to maximise the profits of speculators, while thousands of the people who need them are abandoned to homelessness, living in cars, or transience. This, and the whole concept of ‘gentrification, is totally sick, something you would read about in a novel by Charles Dickens, not something we until recent years would associate with modern-day New Zealand. Why do we put up with it? Mainly because not enough people know what’s going on.
All this calls up the question of what state housing is for – is it to make a profit, or is it to provide for the people who most need it? Or to analyse it on a broader scale, do we want a society driven primarily by money and capital (ie capitalism) or by an overriding concern for people (which could broadly be described as socialism as the name suggests)? It’s a fundamental difference in approach, between either greed and selfishness or a balanced concern for people. Money/profit-driven impulses always lead to the kind of distortions we are seeing now, and ‘social housing’ has been a failure overseas. We need as many people as possible to get behind Niki and highlight what’s going on and resist the manipulations of this Dickensian lineup of characters that make up the present government – better still vote them out later this year.