Rachel McPhee A house is a home.

  • Tauira / Student
    Rachel McPhee
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Jo Bailey, Anthony Nevin

New Zealand has a housing crisis. However, the core of the problem is not only supply and demand, it’s how we conceptualise housing. Our laws, systems, and conversations about housing are all based on the idea that a house is something to be bought, sold, and profited from. This has led to increasing homelessness, a social housing waitlist of over 24,000 applicants, and nearly a third of all renters spending more than 40% of their income on housing.

To fundamentally change a system, we need to address the paradigms that underpin it. One way to shift paradigms is to involve everyone in the conversation. Conversations about housing are typically dominated by economists, financial institutions, and government officials. But we should be listening to the people who need housing.

The aim of this project is to move the public debate away from the “experts” to the experiences and ideas of those hardest hit by the housing crisis. It is intended to make people think about housing as a home first, and asset last; as a social good, not a commodity. Ultimately, this project was designed to ensure that people within the housing system contribute their voices to the Human Rights Commission’s housing inquiry.

This project brings the conversation directly to communities through a mobile and interactive exhibition. The exhibition is a series of house shaped plywood panels that tell a story about our current housing system. Each panel raises questions about what we think a house is or should be and invites the viewer to write their views on the panels in chalk. The audience can also “post” their views in the exhibition letterbox.

The exhibition is supported by a brochure, website, and social media campaign. The brochure supports the exhibition by providing data, statistics, and information sources. It lends credibility and authority to the emotive narrative.

The website is intended to add to the conversation and collate experiences shared through the exhibition. People can make submissions directly to the website, in text, image and video. By allowing people to see others’ comments and respond or share their own views, public discourses have a space separate from mainstream media, government statements, and the “experts”. Bringing all voices together shows that the housing crisis is a systemic problem, and not thousands of personal failures of people who cannot secure decent housing (as is sometimes suggested in the media).

The purpose of the social media campaign is to raise awareness and provide information about locations and dates. It is also a vehicle to create a groundswell of support for treating the housing crisis as a human rights crisis.

This project is intended to be used to put pressure on decision-makers to put people, not money, at the centre of the housing system.