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Chris Ford: The good and the bad of Mana's housing policy

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 There are good and bad elements of Mana's housing policy.

Some commentators (mostly on the right but even a good left wing friend of mine) has slammed the policy for being too racially-based/divisive. There is a valid argument made even by some on the left that the policy of low deposit, no interest loans to enable Maori to build their own housing should be extended to all races.

I agree that this needs to happen to make the policy more credible. After all, Mana calls itself a working class party and proletarianism doesn't have racial boundaries.

However, in stating this I acknowledge that Maori are among the most housing disadvantaged groups. Also, one element of the policy that I do agree with is the element of Maori self-determination within it. I say this because if Maori were in control of the design and building process, this would enable Maori whanau and providers to construct housing that suits Maori tikanga/cultural values.

After all, Pakeha have never traditionally been good at developing culturally appropriate housing for Maori. Perhaps it's better that Maori self-determine their own needs rather than have non-Maori condescendingly and patronisingly telling them what to do. This policy would therefore enable, for example, Maori providers and families to build whanau-based housing that ensured there were sufficient rooms for extended families to live in. The ongoing stories about Maori (and Pasifika families too) living in cramped, squalid housing are legion. That's why I believe that Mana's polices are sensible on this front. 

Furthermore, self-determination is also acknowledged by democratic socialists as a core philosophical principlet that transcends racial/cultural lines. For that reason, I hope that ALL working class and poorer families are provided with the same level of resource by the State to design and build homes that meet their self-determined needs, aspirations and values. I see the same principle as being applicable to disabled people as well who would like to become home owners but due to experiencing multiple social disadvantage and high levels of poverty can't afford to build or buy their own homes in many cases. Disabled people would benefit from such a policy as, for example, people like myself who are wheelchair users who need more room to navigate in and store equipment in would be able to build and/or buy homes that would be made universally livable.

However, I believe that Mana should have been more responsible in coming out with a price tag for their policy. Not costing policy gives your opponents the chance to do it for you. I remember from the days when the Alliance was strong that their policies were always costed and, while they were attacked by opponents for promoting supposedly expensive policies, at least voters knew where the party stood, and more importantly, how much taxpayer money they were prepared to spend on impairment a certain policy.

Having said all this, I still believe that my left wing friend who made the comment about the policy being racially based does have a point. I saw on Facebook today a comment from a Mana Party activist who I know stating that the party's housing spokesperson John Minto would announce the party's wider housing policy for all low-income New Zealanders on Monday. 

In that statement, I hope Mana will extend the same level of resource to non-Maori as they are prepared (and rightly so) to extend to non-Maori.


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