I think the imported chief executive of the Wellington City Council, Kevin Lavery – he of non-transparent subsidies to Singapore Airlines, and the like – must have pushed “send” on an email to staff without checking just who he was sending it to. My household just received two copies, on two different email addresses, of what looks a lot like a staff email. Since we used those two email addresses to make our separate submissions last night on the Island Bay cycleway – and the Council otherwise wouldn’t have one of the addresses – it looks as though he sent his staff email to online responders to the cycleway proposals
Most of it looks harmless enough, although it was wryly amusing to note the self-congratulation about the Council’s Annual Report
Congratulations to everyone involved with our 2015/16 Annual Report, which received a silver medal at the Australasian Reporting Awards. The award is a reminder that the public documents we produce are not just about our performance as an organisation – they are also an opportunity to communicate effectively with our stakeholders.
When this is the same Council that simply refuses to comply with the Official Information Act, in its local government manifestation. Self-promotion, rather than transparency, is rather more like the hallmark of the council.
But included in the email was a “Good Reads” section, with links to various articles on housing and cities related issues. Perhaps next time he could make room for Brendon Harre’s interesting new piece on “Successful cities understand spatial economics”. Out of interest, I did click on one of the links, described this way
Some interesting ideas from outside of New Zealand at possible solutions to housing affordability issues. I like this because it looks, with a different lens, at the challenge of providing adequate, secure and affordable housing and suggestions for tackling them.
But I was somewhat taken aback by what I found, in an article championed by the chief executive of a Council that is keen on promoting Wellington as a cool, successful, and prosperous city.
The author – a freelance writer in the US – is writing about a report from something called the World Resources Institute, on housing options. Not mind, housing policy options for advanced countries, but for
the global south (India, Africa, Asia, Latin America) where the lack of affordable, adequate and secure housing in cities is projected to grow the fastest.
We are told that
The paper spotlights three key challenge areas “to providing adequate, secure and affordable housing in the Global South,” as well as suggestions for tackling them. They include the growth of informal or substandard settlements (i.e., slums), policies and laws that push poorer residents out of the city, or to its fringes, and, interestingly, an overemphasis on home ownership.
The authors apparently favour skewing the tax system to “incentivise renting”.
It gets worse
Beyond the policy-side, however, it also looks at a number of creative rental models, from land leases and co-ops to lump-sum rentals, which are popular in a number of Asian countries, including Thailand, China and India. …… The paper also makes a case for a practice known as “hot bedding,” in which “a bed space in a shared room is rented for a specific number of hours to sleep, typically 7 to 10 hours.”
“Promoting a range of rental housing options expands opportunities for more renters while testing which types of rentals best meet local demand,” the authors conclude.
I’m all for flexibility, but does the chief executive of the Wellington City Council really think that “hot bedding” is an appropriate or desirable solution for the increasingly unaffordable Wellington housing market? Is his vision of the city he temporarily serves now so diminished he regards the growth of slums as the sort of pragmatic idea his staff should be interested in, to fix the mess the Council itself has created?
To be clear, I’m sure Mr Lavery believes none of those things. And perhaps they are reasonable and practical partial solutions in very poor but rapidly urbanising countries. But what does it tell us about his mindset – and that of his political masters – that this is the sort of stuff he is encouraging his staff to read? Most New Zealanders – most Wellingtonians – want to own their place. They don’t have much tolerance for imported bureuacrats who think that home ownership
in many economies just takes up too much mental bandwidth
They are just excuses for the decades-long failure by New Zealand central and local governments.
Free up the land use rules instead. There is plenty of land in greater Wellington, but owners simply aren’t encouraged, or even allowed, to use it. And look for creative ways of allowing greater density where people would prefer that, but in ways that respect the interests of current owners. Above all, look and sound as if you think Wellington might have a future as a first world city, in which residents – present and future – might be able to buy good quality housing at genuinely affordable prices.
But “hot-bedding”………I still can’t quite believe it. But it was good of Mr Lavery to send his email to (presumably) the wrong list of recipients, and thus shed further light on the sort of mindset that prevails at council headquarters.
UPDATE: While I was typing that another email arrived
For those of you who’ve unexpectedly received an email from Wellington City Council – we apologise profusely! The message from our Chief Executive was meant to be a routine communication to Council staff but we’ve hit the wrong button and so it’s received a considerably wider audience. Hopefully it provides a positive, albeit unintended, glimpse inside the engine-room of the Council.
“Positive” – I think not.