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Rehumanising housing: an ecological understanding of the landlord - tenant relationship

2021 Aotearoa New Zealand is experiencing a housing crisis that is benefitting some while hurting others. In Aotearoa New Zealand it is estimated that 50 percent of the population are living in rental homes. While the nation is experiencing house prices accelerating at levels well beyond increases in income, the segment of society that are renting are being financially left behind compared to those who own property. It is estimated that the average Aotearoa New Zealand home-owner is 14 times as wealthy as the average renter. This research follows the values and principles of community psychology, placing housing and tenancy in an ecological model. Systems thinking is drawn on to embed tenancies in the context with which they are occurring. Taking a social justice stance while investigating the broader aspects of tenancy, aiming to illustrate why a landlord chooses this business, how political ideology and policy plays a role in that decision. Further, using systems thinking to understand how the landlords’ business and government policy play out in the lives of tenants, highlighting the inequality present in the life-worlds of tenants compared to home-owners. This thesis uses of a range of methodological approaches that draw from social representations and phenomenological theory. A policy analysis is conducted as well as a detailed analysis of three interviews with a participant. The participant in this research is a landlord in Aotearoa New Zealand. This research investigated the largely unexamined norms present in the tenancy relationship of the periodic inspection, the funding of the tenancy tribunal and the money held in bond during a tenancy and finds that there are imbalances of social justice for tenants. Among the findings it is shown that policy surrounding the tenancy arrangement is largely very old and circumstances have changed greatly, suggesting that a new Act is necessary. Ambiguity in the current Act has led to property management companies generating their own ideas about what property inspections are for. This has in turn led to a situation of intrusive surveillance of tenants. New Zealand support services for tenants were found to be under-developed and should be increased to match the better overseas practices. At the same time it is argued that the term ‘landlord’ be professionalised and a code of conduct for that role written. These changes would likely allow for an improvement in the lifeworld and agency of tenants. Underlying all these issues it is shown that the prevailing ideology of thirty years or more of neoliberalism in Aotearoa New Zealand has driven the policies that have led to the current situation. In relation to this element of the research process I also document my changes in thought as my own neoliberal tendencies were challenged and changed through my critical engagement with the practices of applied community psychology.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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