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Property prices in New Zealand have soared by the most among OECD nations in the past 12 months, rising about 30%, as investors cashed in on historically low interest rates and cheap access to capital under the government's pandemic-inspired stimulus spending.
Successive governments have failed to solve the housing crisis and for many people, especially young people, the goal of an affordable home has become more remote, New Zealand's Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said in a statement.
"The housing crisis in Aotearoa is also a human rights crisis encompassing homeownership, market renting, state housing and homelessness," Hunt said, using the country's indigenous Maori name.
"It is having a punishing impact especially on the most marginalised in our communities," he said.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, said in her report published in June that there is a persistent lack of affordable housing in New Zealand, and consecutive governments have failed to ensure that the housing market meets the needs of the entire population, particularly those who have low incomes.
Soaring prices and rents have forced families into emergency housing, with the government housing many in motels as there are not enough state homes available.
Under pressure Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched a raft of measures this year to tax investors and discourage speculators. But these have had only a marginal impact.
The rising inequality inflamed by the housing crisis is arguably the biggest political challenge facing Ardern's centre-left Labour-led government. The 41-year-old's popularity soared with her response to the pandemic that kept nationwide cases to barely 2,500 and led to an emphatic election win last year.
But her support has been slipping with the latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll on Sunday showing Labour can no longer govern alone, although its coalition with Green Party meant it remains in power and well ahead of rivals.