More than a third of Kiwis now rent, but only five of the country’s MPs are registered as having no interest in real estate, according to the 2022 Register of Pecuniary Interests.
University of Auckland political scientist Lara Greaves said the fact that only around 4% of MPs are tenants could slow efforts to help tenants, as tenant issues would not necessarily be at the forefront of concerns of politicians.
She said studies of representation theory suggested that if MPs mirrored the population in terms of race, disability and socio-economic status, the government was more effective at addressing issues specific to different groups.
Greaves said the high rate of homeownership among MPs could be due to a generation gap and the number of MPs renting could increase as more millennials become politicians.
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But Greaves said just because they weren’t renting didn’t mean MPs wouldn’t be able to help.
With Statistics New Zealand now estimating 36 per cent of Kiwis’ rent, Greaves said MPs wouldn’t have to look far to find a tenant to talk to, and unlike other cohorts, there was no language or comprehension barrier that would impede communication.
Only three Labor MPs, one Green MP and one ACT MP declared no interest in property – even fewer than in 2021, when nine MPs declared no interest.
A total of 56 also owned at least one secondary property.
All national deputies owned houses, according to the register.
Act leader David Seymour, who often bemoaned his inability to afford a home in his wealthy Epsom constituency, had now bought and was paying a mortgage on a house in Auckland, an Act spokesman said .
Seymour now has two registered residences, one in Whangārei and one in Auckland – both held in trust.
Green MP Marama Davidson was one of those renting the house her family lived in, and a spokesperson for the Greens said that if MP Ricardo Menéndez March owned his family’s home in Mexico, he would pay a pension to live in his main residence in Auckland.
When National was asked if his 100% homeownership rate could distort party policies and actions if he returns to power, a spokesperson declined to answer.
“We will no longer discuss the personal living conditions of MPs,” the spokesman said.
National has already announced that it will roll back several of the Labor government’s policies aimed at making property investment less attractive.
These included the cancellation of Labour’s doubling of the 10-year clear line test on investment properties. The light line means that capital gains are taxed as income for investors who buy and sell investment property within a certain time frame.
National Leader Christopher Luxon has also said he intends to restore mortgage interest deductibility if his party returns to power.
In March 2021, Labor announced that it would phase out the ability for investors to deduct mortgage interest payments from rental income for tax purposes.
According to the 2022 register of pecuniary interests, Labor MPs Peeni Henare, Rino Tirikatene and Kieran McAnulty have no pecuniary interests.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick said MPs were privileged over the rest of the population, in terms of earning potential and power to create change.
“If they were to vote for further expansion, strengthening and protection of that power and wealth, as many continue to do, the conflict of interest is pretty profoundly clear,” a- she declared.
“Greens have always worked and will always work for a housing system that recognizes housing as a human right, whether someone owns or rents.
“It’s incredibly clear in our policies for rent control, rental WOF, registers of landlords and property managers, mass construction of social housing, wealth tax and guaranteed minimum income.
“That means house prices have to come down, a position only the Green Party has ever been willing to take.”
A Labor spokesman said the housing crisis had been brewing for decades.
“We are turning the tide through housing policy reforms and the biggest government investment since the 1970s to get many more new homes built,” the spokesperson said.