A house and a home are not the same thing yet we talk about providing houses as if they are.
- A House provides shelter or accommodation
- A Home is the place where one lives permanently especially as a member of a family or household
There is no denying that for a variety of reasons NZ has a shortage of accommodation and needs more houses. A variety of discussions and ideas consider new developments should be built as communities.
Providing a cluster of houses does not create a community. Communities are a sense of place and belonging that emanates from those that call it home. It requires a sense of permanence to establish a feeling of belonging to a place something many tenants do not have.
Renting in NZ is seen as a stepping stone to home ownership and something needed temporarily but for many this will be the only accommodation they ever experience. I have watched many of my friends and family repeatedly having to find new accommodation due to property sales they have no control over. One family had to endure this every year for 3 years right before Christmas which is when this most often occurs and the hardest time of the year to deal with this situation. Aside from the physical costs that relocation forces tenants to burden (rental advances, moving and re-connection costs) there is also the issue of stress. Without the stability of a place to call home many children are growing up without the opportunity to establish long term friends and relationships within a community as parents are forced to take whatever accommodation is available even if it is far from their current location. Unlike property owners tenants often have little choice of location.
It is possible to have a home without owning it. I was well into my 20s before I realised that my mothers family home we visited my grandparents in every school holidays did not belong to them but was in fact a state house. They did not own the house but it WAS the family home, an anchor to that community that welcomed 3 generations and provided a sense of consistency and belonging.
Some landlords have had very bad experiences with tenants not respecting their property and looking after it as they would their own home. How can anyone be expected to know what a home is or how to treat a property like a home if they have never had one.
Lets face it there is a large proportion of New Zealanders that will never be in a position to purchase their own property yet we still talk about providing houses as though renting is a temporary situation and a roof over your head is the only consideration. Helping some people into home ownership through loans and rent-to-own options is a good start but does not address the needs of those that will for their entire lives be tenants. We need to provide long-term/life-time rental accommodation that allows these families and communities to establish a sense of place, belonging and stability.
If we are to address inequality we need to acknowledge that a permanent place of residence to call home is currently a privilege only ownership allows. We need to build homes and communities not just houses.