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Statistical representations of the housing problem in briefings to incoming ministers, 2008–2020: The politics of housing numbers

An interpretive policy studies perspective on what is understood to be the ‘facts’ about the housing problem in New Zealand has potential to uncover the way statistical representations of problems are embedded in larger normative narratives, and the consequential implications for housing policy and governance. This paper analyses such representations as they are evident in policy briefings to incoming Ministers of Housing between 2008 and 2020 by Housing New Zealand (HNZ) and its successor Kāinga Ora, and the way these reflect and reinforce a neoliberal political rationality and an agenda to residualise and marketise state housing support. The briefings represent authoritative accounts by a key bureaucratic advisory agency of the significant issues and priorities in the housing portfolio. The period prior to 2017 saw the emergence of new articulations of housing problems relating to affordability, declining rates of home ownership, an increasing rental population, and increasing homelessness. In the briefings to ministers, these problems were routinely framed as issues of supply and demand and market adjustment, and this has continued following the change of government in 2017. The focus of the paper is on identifying statistical representations within the discursive context that give weight to particular policy choices.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
New Zealand Demographic Society
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