Generation Rent: Rethinking New Zealand’s Priorities

Book review by Reg Birchfield

New Zealand’s over-heated housing market is a source of serious economic, financial, political and social concern. There is both local and global agreement that this is so.

A husband and wife team of professional New Zealand economists, Shamubeel and Selena Eaqub, have recently tossed some enlightenment into the debate that’s raging around the reasons for and, the solutions that might dampen down the conflagration.

“The time for denial is over, the time for inaction is over, the time for shirking responsibility is over. Now is the moment for our leaders to find the courage to tackle the mistakes of the past, to fix what is clearly broken, and to work together across politics and among different communities for a better New Zealand and a fair housing deal for all,” suggest the authors of Generation Rent.

The Eaqubs’ 163-page BWB Text is an accessible and compact read that describes the realities for a generation facing a market in which housing costs have soared relative to incomes, making the pervasive dream of owning a home either impossible, or blighted by lifelong slavery to mortgage debt.

The book also shows why, if nothing is done to address the problem, a generation will remain shut out of home ownership; and how that will have far-reaching impacts on society – including increasing inequality and ‘ghettoisation’.

As renters themselves, the Eaqubs point out that Generation Rent are not just ‘property orphans’ but ‘cultural orphans’ – such are the social ramifications of home owning in New Zealand; and the state and status of the rental environment.

They also describe constructive solutions covering:

  • The rental market.
  • The supply of houses.
  • Monetary policy.
  • Immigration.
  • Foreign buyers.
  • Money supply.
  • The tax regime.
  • The financial sector.

And provide a thoughtful critique of some of the more popular but flawed quick-fixes.

This is an urgent and highly readable book in which the authors contend that home ownership is nothing less than an issue that will define the kind of culture and country New Zealand will become – and the issue needs to be properly confronted.

“Doing nothing is the road to a terrible New Zealand full of inequalities and frailties both in the near future and for many generations to come,” the authors warn. 

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