Louise Hutt is running for mayor of Hamilton. This week she found out her landlord is selling her home.
My partner and I found out on Friday that the house we rent is going up for sale. We live in a one-year-old townhouse in Frankton – one suburb over from the CBD in Hamilton. You might be thinking, oh bloody millennial snowflakes, who cares – but I’m currently running for mayor of Hamilton, and we’re only guaranteed our tenancy till September, a month before the election ends.
Finding our home felt like winning the lottery. I moved from a house where mould was growing on anything I kept in the bathroom (it’s bleak af mould on your tampons, in case you were wondering) and where our landlord asked me to come back a month after I moved out to do some gardening (apparently some weeds had grown in that time). As a brand new build, our current home has double glazing and insulation – easily the best house I have lived in my 26 years. We’ve only had two blankets on our bed this winter. Our current land agent is friendly and chill. Like I said, the jackpot.
Housing insecurity is something I’ve experienced my whole life. I’ve moved house seven times in the eight years I’ve lived in Hamilton. During my childhood in Whangamatā, at one point my mum moved seven times over three years – including when we lived in a camping ground over winter.
We met with the real estate agent who will be selling our house last night. He was very kind and we briefly talked about whether we’d like to put a bid in, but we’re not in a position to do that. The median spend last election for mayoral candidates in Hamilton was $50,000. That’s basically a house deposit. I’ve spent the past two months fundraising for my campaign because my savings account is a few zeroes short of that figure.
The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if our electoral system is set up for candidates who face housing insecurity. Candidates need to authorise material which promotes them – that’s why you see “Authorised by Louise Hutt, 8 Belfast Place, Hamilton” on assets like my website. Luckily for me, that’s my work address – but what if I’d used my home address and then I don’t live there anymore? Would I have been breaking electoral law if we were forced to move out? When I register as a candidate in a few weeks time, I need to supply my address to declare if I live in the ward I’m standing in. I live in Hamilton West currently and I want to keep living here, but what if I’m not by the time voting papers are sent out?
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Speaking of voting papers, our tenancy ends September 5th. Voting papers are sent out September 20th-25th. If our house gets sold and we can’t renew our tenancy, I won’t receive my voting papers, and I’ll need to do a special vote. Luckily I’ve read all the details on voting a bazillion times by now – but when the residential voter turnout in Hamilton is only 33% and the ratepayer voter turnout is 86%, you shouldn’t need to be a candidate to make sure housing insecurity doesn’t disrupt your ability to vote.
That’s the part of this I keep coming back to. This is upsetting and frustrating for me, but my partner and I can probably weather this. It will be disruptive and exhausting, just like it has been every time, but we’ll be okay. Maybe it’ll be sold to someone who will be stoked to have two earnest, responsible tenants who want to live there long term. But there are a lot of people for whom housing insecurity screws with their day to day life far more significantly. It uproots their kids from their school, and finding bond money before the last bond has been paid out is impossible.
The 2013 census revealed 40% of Hamilton had lived in their current residence for less than five years – that’s 79,000 people by the way- and 57% didn’t own the home they lived in. This figure has grown by 16,000 people since 2001.
Ultimately, it reminds me why I’m running. We need people representing us who understand issues like this. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in a beautiful, one-year-old townhouse in Frankton, with two very earnest and responsible tenants, let me know.
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