New Zealand is in the midst of a housing crisis. As part of the “Rebuilding the Ruins” lenten book, Wayne Kirkland of St David’s Church, Naenae, Wellington has written about how God led him and wife Jill to get involved. They were initially working in Prison Ministry, helping men reintegrate after getting out of prison. Along with some friends who were prison chaplains they purchased a piece of land in Naenae, from Housing NZ to build 2 large houses suitable for supporting men just out of prison. By coincidence (God incident) the land was directly behind St David’s Anglican Church which was struggling at the time to remain viable. They were soon after asked to replant the Church as a mission venture.
Few landlords are willing to rent to ex-prisoners, so they ended up being led to build 2 units on an undeveloped corner of the Church land. As the housing crisis began to bite in 2015-16. They realized increasing numbers of people were living in substandard housing, or could no longer afford to live in the area. Even more concerning they found several people sleeping rough, homeless. They realized part of the issue was that Housing NZ had demolished blocks of housing near St David’s and nothing was being done with the land. Which led to a Church camp, 3 day live-in protest. It brought a tidal wave of response. The Church has gotten involved because it matters to God.
As an individual Christian this is an issue close to my heart. Things are worsening, right now. The government, with the best of intentions, has brought in new Tenancy Laws to improve tenant rights, but the backlash has been landlords with only one or two investment properties, who can get premium prices for them right now, are selling up. This leaves many tenants homeless, or living in emergency accommodation.
This has greatly impacted my own family. My son and his wife, both disabled, had lived in the same home for 5 years and the landlord decided to sell. On a fixed income unable to find suitable, affordable housing they have had to put all their belongings in storage and move 200 miles to live with me. They feel dispossessed of their friends, lives and belongings.
Things are liable to get worse before they get better. The government is trying to make things easier for 1st time home owners by discouraging property investors (landlords). There is no easy solution, it’s a balancing act. This makes things more difficult for the poor and renters. This all matters to God, it means more than ever there are homeless, desperate people, families even, living in their cars or very sub-standard accommodations when we have the threat of Covid hanging over our heads. This is not happening somewhere else - it is here in our own backyard. We all need to ask God, “What can I do to help?” and Do it!