Get it right if you are going to pull something like this
Yesterday I wrote a post on why Labour’s poll rating were tanking in my eyes and observations. You can see that post here: Elections 2014 – Labour Narrative and again remember it was based on my own observations so there is no technical right or wrong answer here.
After I had written the said post I noticed the below info-graphic going around and thought “this is why Labour are in trouble.” Take a look:
I am of two minds when I saw this. The first being cue Statistics 150: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics – so I am naturally suspicious when political parties crank this kind of stuff out. The second being of “REALLY…”
The reason why I go “really” is because Labour are still committing political marketing failures and not framing the narrative properly to relate to voters.
Before I continue there is going to be a home truth that needs to be told. That is house prices will rise and essentially need to rise (although not a run away levels which has happened before) unless you want to put just about everyone into a negative equity situation that will cripple the economy (just ask the Americans). Incremental rises in house prices illustrate the economy is ticking along well. Run away house price rises as well as a deflationary spiral from negative equity (that is the house is worth less than the mortgage) is bad for the economy.
Now it can be argued Auckland is racing away with housing prices at the moment and this can have serious consequences on the economy if something goes pear-shaped. How you address this situation to mitigate against any “correction” is something Labour could control the narrative over National and make a dent in the Auckland voter base but has thus far failed to do so.
Why? Because Labour’s housing policy fails to actually address the housing situation especially in Auckland and Christchurch. The situation in Christchurch is owing to the rebuild being slow for whatever reason. The situation in Auckland is owing to planning regulations more than anything else. That said there is also a failure to acknowledge that more and more people might not want to own a house but a rather happy to rent long-term or for life as is common in the EU.
So how would Labour seize the initiative away from National and take control of the narrative in regards to housing.
For starters get rid of that stupid info-graphic above – too negative – to err bitchy – no alternative or at least a link to one. Second thing address the actual problem thoroughly rather than window dressing. And finally prepare to facilitate a cultural change around renting and ownership.
Building 100,000 homes via State initiatives not seen since the late 1930’s will help Christchurch where private and insurance led house building has been far too slow (for my liking) in replacing the damaged and destroyed housing stock. However, it will not help Auckland one little bit where the needs and planning regime is more complex than simple housing building is trying to solve. It would be quite interesting to see a Labour Government embark on building apartment blocks in our Town and Metropolitan Centres where there is quite a bit of latent demand (more so than individual houses on the urban fringes) at the moment for those type of houses. To get housing on the move in Auckland and restore some affordability back in the market you will need to liberalise our planning regimes.
That is and I have submitted on countless times before you need to lessen all these development controls from the Unitary Plan’s residential zones. Allow the freer market (so the developer and the resident consumer) dictate what housing is needed throughout Auckland. All Auckland Council needs to do is make sure the buildings comply with the Building Act and that urban design protocols are followed. The freer the planning regulations, the freer the market is in meeting equilibrium on housing supply, the better chance we have in restoring housing affordability.
The question becomes this is Council issue so how does Labour frame a narrative around liberalisation of our planning regimes in Auckland. Well if the Government can create Special Housing Areas to speed up Greenfield and Brownfield housing (both standalone and apartments) and frame narratives around that then, Labour could possibly frame a narrative around partnering with Auckland Council to allow the market to be freer in housing supply that we actually need. Another narrative could be that the Government could be a central facilitator between Auckland, the Waikato and Tauranga council’s if it is formally decided to go down the path of inter-regional satellite centres connected by road and upgraded rail systems. That particular narrative would suit both “sharing the load” in redistributing Auckland’s population while giving the regions a boost through extra development (residential and industrial) from these satellite centres and the accompanying infrastructure that goes with it.
In regards to the culture around ownership and renting Labour could frame narratives around facilitating an evolutionary change where home ownership was no longer “the goal.” At the moment those who choose (own their own accord) rent long-term or for life (rather than own a home) are stigmatised by our culture of Home Ownership is King. In the EU and larger cities of the USA renting is considered king and the citizens are quite adapted to it without negative consequences we back here might try attach back. This stigma of people not wanting to owning a home (just like people choosing to drive or even get a licence any more) must be removed and they treated as equals to home owners rather than outcasts.
And if we come to accept that we will have people long-term renting as a choice then again our housing supply must match as it should be for owners as well. That means (and again I have submitted on this before) a full suite of 1-6 bedroom stand-alone, terraced houses, and apartments (both mid and high-rise) with all the infrastructure to match. We also need to make sure our housing quality is better than what it is now and that landlords and tenants understand their rights and responsibilities.
There is much more Labour could do with the housing narrative than it is both doing now and I am covering in this post. The main point is though that again Labour is not seizing the narrative (thus some easy wins as well) properly and they wonder why people are just cold to them in comparison to National.
Will Labour change in time – yet to be seen but I have my doubts.