Restructuring NZ housing policy, 1990-1998 : an institutional analysis
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis examined changes to New Zealand housing policy announced in the 1991 Budget from a neo-institutionalist perspective. Several areas of social policy faced similar reforms, but in most cases entrenched interests (usually some combination of government officials, workers in the field and consumers) forced changes in the implementation process. Housing policy followed the original proposal most closely, which saw a shift from the direct provision of housing to a tenure neutral cash subsidy. Central government agencies related to housing were also reorganised. This disrupted the channels of political influence for NGOs, allowing the Government to implement the restructuring with only minor modifications. However, the intended separation of commercial and social goals was not achieved, as seen most clearly in claims of political interference in Housing New Zealand's management of the state rental housing. A neo-institutionalist perspective was adopted because traditional theories of the state, social policy and housing were too general to account for variations between areas of social policy, or the shift from incremental to abrupt policy change. The work of Paul Pierson on welfare state retrenchment was a useful starting point for this thesis, but he gave few reasons for his finding that housing policy was the only area successfully retrenched in his four case studies. In the New Zealand context, this thesis found that housing policy's vulnerability to restructuring was a result of political and economic factors. Politically, the new Government had never been a strong supporter of state rental housing, and there was little public support for the existing policy because few people benefited, especially when compared with other areas of social policy such as health and education. Economically, the state's role in the housing market was small, again compared with health or education, so there would be minimal impact from a change in policy.