Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 23. 21st September 1972
The Great Housing Con
The Great Housing Con
Coloured slides and bleeding hearts were all that Wellington people were offered at Monday night's pub lie meeting on Housing. About 1,000 people turned up and many of them were quickly angered by the non-answers offered by their political 'leaders'.
A pamphlet advertising the meeting promised "a new-style public meeting" which would be "entertaining, informative, challenging". It was not a new-style meeting at all. The programme was dominated by tiresome, waffling politicians and academics. Little time was given to discussion and questions from the floor, and when sections of the large audience started to express their disgust, the Chairman, Public Administration Professor John Roberts tried, unsuccessfully to shut them up.
Towards the end anobviously pre-arranged motion was moved from the floor. Roberta refused to accept any amendments to it, and then declared it carried after refusing to take a vote! Some bemused political science students in the audience wondered at the hiatus between the democratic theory Roberts teaches and his practice as a chairman. To others, who had seen this political martinet in action at the Politics Participation & People conference a fortnight earlier, his behaviour was no surprise. There Roberts had refused to vacate the chair when motions were moved disagreeing with his ruling and expressing no confidence in him.
Sociologist Ray Bradley began with an academic address on a survey he had organised in May on Wellington's housing problems. Bradley's coloured slides and academic discourse did not help to clarify the problem though the results of his survey have shown up the problems a lot of people knew existed through their experience of living in bad housing.
Bradley's slides were followed by the Wellington City Council's housing committee chairman, George Porter. Porter didn't have any problem with demands from the audience to do something because, as usual, he simply called for more assistance from the government to help the council build houses. That's a pretty good line that George Porter has developed, and he said "we're well aware of the problem and we're anxious to help solve it" at least four times, to hammer home his concern.
At least Porter was the only Tory speaker on stage to sound even vaguely credible. Ken Comber, Holyoake's son-in-law and the National candidate for Wellington Central, made a complete laughing stock of himself with his ignorant, bumbling answers to questions. He told the meeting, which rollicking with mirth, about the great work Dan Riddiford had done to solve the housing problem m Wellington. That sort of crap really brought the audience on. In comparison, Labour candidate Dave Shand performed quite well and certainly stood out among the politicians on the platform. He supported a capital gains tax on all urban property transfers which was suggested by economist C. Gillion, and rent control, although he seemed unsure about Labour Party support for these measures. Petone M.P. Fraser Colman did not clarify Labour's policy on either proposal. Comber did not support a capital gams tax which was hardly surprising as he is a landlord. About the best thing that can be said of Comber is that, if elected, he will be a fitting successor to Dan Riddiford.
Eric Holland, the Minister of Housing, showed quite plainly his inability to solve any housing problem any where, let alone one as serious as Wellington's. Starting off by saying how the Government has to protect the taxpayer from the costs of more housing (presumably he was thinking of his constituents in Fendalton), he confessed that he thought there was nothing wrong with people who made a profit out of renting houses. Of course Holland did deplore exploitation of tenants by landlords but he did not say where he drew the line between fair profit and exploitation Obviously in practice he cannot do so and therefore his approval of making money out of people's need for a place to live shows that he is part of the problem and incapable of a solution.
Interestingly, none of the official speakers had much to say about landlords at all. They were all content to mouth about 'the housing problem', but none stated clearly that the 'housing problem' in Wellington is very much a land lord problem. In a situation of extreme housing shortage, the opportunities for people to make large and quick capital gains from housing are enormous, especially when there is little government finance at cheap rates of interest for council housing, and few state houses being built The Tenants Protection Association produced a hard hitting leaflet explaining the real problem of housing in Welling ton. But the Association's chairman, George Rosenberg did not get a seat on the stage and the chance to speak with all the dignitaries. Nor did the squatters, who have been the only people to produce an immediate solution to part of the housing shortage all year.
Tim Dyce, whose Wellington Citizens Committee on Accommodation organised the meeting, praised the squatters actions in his speech. But why didn't he invite one of their representatives to explain what they'd done and their solutions from the platform. Dyce will have to realise one day that he won't get very far without offending the likes of Frank Kitts and Eric Holland. If he doesn't the homeless of Wellington will still hear Frank Kitts referring to the 'Good Book' as a solution to the problem of housing in ten years time.
The meeting was organised so that the politicians and academies had all the time in the world to mouth platitudes while the people in the audience had none. With that sort of 'democracy' it is scarcely surprising that many people got pissed off and started yelling at the politicians' dribbling paternalism. If Mr Dyce organises any meetings on housing in the future, he should keep the politicians away and turn the platform over to the people like Tenants Protection and the squatters who know the problem and have done the most to find a solution.