Social Development

Auckland Housing Crisis: Legal, Policy and Economic Factors

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This piece was written as part of the course LAWGENRL 438: Housing Law and Policy at the University of Auckland.

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Question: What legal and economic factors have contributed to the Auckland Housing Crisis, why is it concerning, and what legal mechanisms (policy) can be adopted to address it?

I           Introduction

Auckland’s median house price rose 18% in 2014,[1] and less than a third of Aucklanders now own their homes.[2] The 2015 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey ranks Auckland as ‘severely unaffordable’, the seventh most unaffordable housing market in the developed world.[3] Both the Reserve Bank and the Treasury indicate that the housing situation in Auckland is a ‘bubble’, ‘unsustainable’ and a threat to New Zealand’s economic recovery.[4] Qualitative data also show that young New Zealanders are expressing anxiety about their ability to own a home.[5] Housing affordability in Auckland has become a significant social and economic problem (“Auckland housing crisis”).

This main issue in this legal opinion is what legal mechanisms can be implemented to address the Auckland housing crisis?

The analysis will be divided into three parts:

The first sub-issue sets out the context, why is housing affordability in Auckland a crisis and does the government have a moral or legal duty to intervene?

The second sub-issue looks at what legal and economic factors have contributed to the crisis and the effectiveness of existing policies and legal mechanisms,

The third sub-issue is forward looking by looking at how a capital gains tax can be effectively implemented by the government.

This opinion will analyse a combination of laws, policy documents and economic indicators.

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Linshui Protests: China’s Paradoxical Approach to Protest Coverage

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This piece is written about the protests that are currently unfolding in Linshui, China.

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Chinese police clashing with protesters. Source: Weibo

A violent protest erupted in China yesterday following the demonstration of thousands of people at the displeasure of the government’s decision not to build a high speed rail through the city of Linshui that would have been key to its development. Despite the lack of media coverage, I thought I would write my thoughts. The response of the Chinese government warrants special attention as China in the past year has not hesitated to express its own ‘concern’ about the protests that exploded in Baltimore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Chinese residents were seen hurling rocks at swathes of police, foreign journalists were assaulted and detained, and Chinese SWAT teams were deployed to ‘maintain order’. The pictures and videos show a backdrop of half-completed concrete buildings, and the squads of armoured police evokes a comparison to what is currently happening in disaffected parts of the United States.

The Linshui protest is interesting, because it is a ‘pro-development’ instead of an ‘anti-development’ protest. The largest protests in recent Chinese history have so far been against the fast pace of growth and the associated environmental degradation. However, this time it was sparked by the  decision to build a shorter but cheaper high speed rail around the city instead of through it. This is a superpower which has so far maintained domestic order primarily by trading civil rights for economic development, and the promise of that is being challenged here.

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