We all deserve an Aotearoa which is well-known for genuinely affordable, accessible, healthy, sustainable and beautiful housing for everyone. Public housing is one of the major ways we can achieve this vision.
When the housing crisis became a household term three years ago, ActionStation teamed up with young housing activists to create Public Housing Futures. Our dream was to imagine housing solutions that would address the serious need faced among our communities and to challenge the role of the market in our housing system.
Together, ActionStation and Public Housing Futures are driving a long term campaign to call on our government to significantly increase our public housing stock (through building, buying and acquiring).
To get started, in October, we hosted over 200 people for a “House the People!” webinar about the history and importance of public housing in Aotearoa. Hosted by ActionStation’s Director, Kassie, researcher Vanessa Cole took us through the history of state housing and turning points in our country’s history; educator Phoebe Carr spoke about the “million homes programme” in Sweden; and ActionStation campaigner Max Harris took us through economic arguments for a public housing build with strong reference to this Ministry of Green Works report. The webinar garnered unanimously supportive feedback from the ActionStation community for ambitious public housing futures.
The housing crisis will not go away in 2023 without a bold shift in how we conceptualise our housing system, and how we subsequently act on that shift. We hope to play a role in moving Aotearoa toward a system that allows for everyone to have access to a healthy, stable home in their community.
We all want to live in happy, thriving communities where everyone has what they need to build their best lives. But all too often this isn't the case. For decades politicians of all stripes have neglected key public services that help low-income families build the lives they want to lead. Strapped with low wages, insecure work and high rents, more and more of our whānau are being pushed into poverty.
Throughout 2022, we convened the Fairer Future collaboration - a group of organisations working on the frontlines of poverty, and those who support and serve them. The collaboration includes faith groups, anti-poverty groups, social services and many others including Auckland Action Against Poverty, Barnardos, and the NZ Disability Advisory Trust.
Together with the collaboration, we’ve coordinated actions calling for liveable incomes for all, including:
- Commissioning and launching evidence-based research into what a liveable income means in 2022;
- Participating heavily in consultation processes directly with the government and the Ministry for Social Development (MSD);
- Releasing the major Seven Steps for a Fairer Future report - a plan of action to create a welfare system we can be proud of that’s endorsed by more than 40 organisations which work for all families to thrive.
We launched a petition that quickly gained traction, calling on the Government to enact the Seven Steps, which include:
- Increasing core benefit levels to the standard of liveable incomes so that people on income support can stay healthy and live with dignity;
- Raising the minimum wage to the living wage to make sure people can keep up with the cost of living;
- Increasing the Disability Allowance to make sure disabled people have enough to cover things like medical appointments and travel costs;
- Overhauling relationship rules so that people on income support can find love without jeopardising their income, and have financial freedom in relationships;
- Removing sanctions that harshly punish people instead of supporting them;
- Wipe debt owed to MSD that’s often accrued by the Ministry making mistakes in their payments due to the complexity of the system;
- Improving supplementary assistance and urgent grants to make sure people have enough to cover ongoing and unexpected costs.
Strategising has begun in the lead-up to the Budget and the election, where the Fairer Futures collaboration will focus on working at putting a flourishing and fairer future for all of us through the seven steps high on the agenda. Our next key focus is a report illustrating the impact of debt owed to MSD, which will be released in February.
Our whole wellbeing is improved when our teeth and gums are looked after. Dental care means being able to confidently express who we are, connect with others, and share smiles with loved ones. But people in successive governments have chosen to treat mouth health differently to the health of the rest of our bodies by excluding dental care from the public health system.
That’s why throughout 2022 we’ve seeded a campaign calling for dental care to be brought into the public health system for everyone. Our campaigner, Max Harris, brought a group together to explore a pathway to universal dental care, including dental professionals, anti-poverty campaigners, and trade unions.
Since the group came together, we’ve seen some great action including:
- The impactful launch of the Tooth be Told report that makes the case for universal dental care in Aotearoa by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists;
- One of the dentists in the campaign connecting with Auckland City Mission through the group to assist with the Mission's oral health work;
- Some encouraging conversations with political parties on what fairer, more holistic dental health policies could look like.
The group will continue to work together, and look forward to ramping up efforts to spread the importance, efficacy, and achievability of public dental care from March 2023.
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