The Government has produced its annual budget in May and as expected in an election year it has a number of vote grabbing items. A few months back I wrote an article about how much of the wealth in NZ was in the hands of a few wealthy households and so cynically it comes as no surprise that significant money is being spent on the masses. Do the math, a few wealthy voters versus a majority of low to middle income voters.
Personally I was very happy to see help for low and middle income families and put aside my more cynical nature and perspective as I realised that it was helping the areas of our Rotorua Community that the Rotorua Budget Advisory Service mostly work with. There have been a number of issues raised about this budget by people far more knowledgeable than me but the one area where I think it still falls short is cost of housing. True, the maximum accommodation supplement was raised for families that are eligible but it is important to understand that the amount of accommodation supplement received is worked out individually depending on a number of factors such as type of income, and therefore households may not qualify for the maximum. Students have been advised to check with Studylink to see what changes they can expect in their own personal circumstances.
Rotorua falls mainly into Accommodation Supplement Area 3 and therefore for a 1 person household the maximum has been raised by $15 to $80 per week, for a 2 person household the rise was $30 per week to $105 and for households with 3 or more people the maximum rose $40 to $160 per week. I would be surprised if these rises were keeping track with rising rent and mortgage payments. One cynical comment I heard recently was that landlords would simply raise their rental charges and absorb this increase perpetuating the cycle of tenants not being able to meet their rent payments except at the cost of reducing household food or power. Frankly I don’t think this will be the case for landlords who have a genuine care for their tenants and understand that times are quite hard out there and every little bit helps.
Good affordable housing is going to be an important issue this election and although all political parties agree that we need more of this type of housing on the market none of them have been able to come up with a comprehensive achievable plan that will ensure all people in this country have access to suitable long term housing that they can afford. I suspect the one (or two) that do will win.
If you put aside the vote grabbing aspects you realise that the Government are using the budget to flag issues that the whole of New Zealand society are facing. Where there is a need money has been allocated but the baseline is that the first things in to the budget are the basic necessities but on a much larger scale. Just like the government, Rotorua households need to plan for issues and necessities and what better way than to come in and get free budgeting advice and help from the Rotorua Budget Advisory Service.
- Pakanui Tuhura (Manager – Rotorua Budget Advisory Service Inc)