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University lecture tackles housing crisis head-on

Press Release – University of Auckland

Frontline social housing worker Bernie Smith will look at how to restore secure housing for all New Zealanders in the Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture hosted by Faculty of Arts on October 23.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2018

Frontline social housing worker Bernie Smith will look at how to restore secure housing for all New Zealanders in the Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture hosted by Faculty of Arts on October 23.

Smith, the chief executive of Māngere-based Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, will argue that the Labour-led government is not doing enough to meet the housing needs of low-income families, and seems to be putting all its efforts into KiwiBuild houses that will cost up to $650,000 each.

“Why does the government believe it can solve the housing crisis by itself using the KiwiBuild programme, instead of proactively and creatively working with community housing providers to reduce the increasing gap between homelessness and home ownership?

“The government position is creating further poverty and a greater sense of hopelessness among New Zealand families, who only seek a warm, dry, affordable, long-term, sustainable rental home in which to raise their children.”

With over 40 years in social services in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia, Smith has extensive experience of child protection and foster care, disabilities, seniors and now homelessness and poverty. On returning to New Zealand in 2016, he was shocked to find that in South Auckland there were 100,000 people living in overcrowded and substandard housing, and appalled to see his own people living in garages, parks, cars and lodges.

Politics Senior Lecturer Dr Geoff Kemp, who is on the Bruce Jesson Trust and is an organiser of the University-sponsored lecture, says that given the scale of the housing crisis “we need to engage with new and diverse thinking.

“The housing crisis is a critical issue for New Zealand and needs continuing critical debate – no-one has all the answers. With his frontline experience, Bernie Smith is someone who’ll talk from the heart and shoot from the hip.”

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