“Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” (Isaiah chapter 5, verse 8).
What happens to everyone else? Where do they go?
In the late 1980’s roughly 75% of houses in New Zealand were occupied by the owner. In 2013, 50% of houses in New Zealand were occupied by the owner. An incredibly sharp decline in sharing out the property market with the New Zealand population over but a few decades.
“[King] Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.’
But Naboth replied, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.’” (1 Kings chapter 21, verses 2-3).
Where would Naboth and his mokopuna belong if his land was eaten up by the property investor? Whose ‘better vineyard’ would Ahab have to acquire and where would they go?
70% of homeowners in New Zealand own more than one house.
House prices soar beyond Sirius. Simultaneously, 50% of New Zealanders share a collective net worth of 5.2% of the country’s total net worth. The wealthiest 10% of New Zealanders own 51.8% of New Zealand’s total net worth.
People with more houses buy more houses, whilst people without a home struggle to purchase a single one.
Surely Christian property owners realise that if they are renting property to someone they are contributing to a wider injustice, not contributing to a solution for the renter? Or perhaps not? The investor gains at the expense of the renter by taking a home from someone, and then charging the renter somewhere to sleep.
If we have become prone to disassociating our abstracted, personal faith from the physical world, it is very likely we can disassociate our personal financial circumstance from the wider housing crisis. Besides, everyone else is doing it. If I don’t, someone else will.
But a personal faith in Christ is one of picking up our cross to give our whole life to the least of these so that the last may be first and the first may be last.
A personal faith in Christ inextricably results in reconciliation between me and others, not just me and God. True pardoning of sin is a re-orientation towards God’s true shalom for all – not just me, because my actions have consequences on others whether I like it or not.
Which means a New Zealand landowner’s Christian faith will “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 7).
Where will our mokopuna belong if the land is eaten up by the property investors?
There actually are alternatives. The sorts of alternatives that don’t belong to this world. The injustices of the housing market can be reversed when landowners recognise their responsibility to love your neighbour as yourself.
They could gift their surplus land to others who would otherwise never stand a chance to own land themselves. Or offer their home to tenants on loan, and have the tenants slowly pay it off, rather than pay rent.
Part of the supply problem is that there is a housing shortage. Yet a bigger part of the supply problem is that the people with houses have multiple houses. How do Christians respond to this knowing that others are going without a place to belong, stressed at the mercy of the renter’s market?
From whom did the land originate anyway?
A world of growing inequality between the haves and the have not’s simply won’t change if the haves don’t work towards empowering the have not’s to also have. And maybe some of us have too much – far more than one will ever need.
The activities of the rich and the activities of the poor affect each other. One does not look upon the other detached from the other, in the same way that Christ does not look upon us detached from us. We earthlings are in relationship with one another and that relationship is messy. What shall we do about the mess?
We do know that one day there will be a return of the King. He will set the world how it ought to be, reorder and restructure our human systems so they may be just once more. As a result of his reordering, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 5).
Will the Church be an example of what that sort of justice looks like before His final return? Or will we too be the weeds that are spoiling a golden wheat?
I have come to believe that it is unethical for Christians to invest in the New Zealand residential property market. The rich should throw their money around somewhere else so that the poor can at least have a place to sleep.
There is a difference between what is legal and what is ethical, and if our ethics are to come from Jesus we will find such difference to be vast.
Andrew Hill is a true-blue Kiwi, born and reared in Aotearoa New Zealand. He has lived between Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton, chasing his passion: Knowing God. Andrew has studied theology through various institutions, served as a Youth Pastor and as an Associated Pastor at a couple of Baptist Churches, and currently spends time with people with disabilities as a Community Support Worker through Spectrum Care. Andrew has just finished writing his first novel which he intends to publish shortly, and for fun, live streams on twitch.tv @theophilus_nz.