Up till today I always thought the Government Superannuation was the nearest thing we have to a Basic Income for over 65s. It was unconditional and was given to all in that age group.
But I was wrong. Today I heard from a friend on Government Superannuation who has just had to pay for a second toilet (she chose a compost toilet), a new letterbox, a second electricity meter and a new shower. She had to do this because otherwise Work and Income would have cut her Government Superannuation.
Why? Because she is retired, drawing Government Superannuation and owns a biggish house near a shopping centre. A few months ago a recently retired friend came to live in her back building and is doing it up. They have known each other for zonks and being sociable creatures, just wanted company. They both enjoy the same movies and books, both cook well and their conversation is stimulating.
My friend’s superannuation is $366.94 a week living alone but the single, sharing payment is $338.71 a week. Both of them would be deemed sharing if they shared a toilet, letterbox, electricity bill and shower. So the house will now have two of each.
Furthermore, there is a third category from Work and Income and that is married, civil union or de facto and that is $282.26 a week.
What message does this send our society? That the government will not encourage friendship and sharing of facilities, and certainly not sexual intimacy, or even, dare I write it love.
And if you think it doesn’t have housing implications, think again. The said male friend could well have taken up a whole house and section by himself and had a full single superannuation. Two houses, two sections, two letterboxes, two electricity meters is better than one? Of course not.
I think of the retired single people living in Christchurch where the rentals are horrendous and people live in garages. I think of the Auckland housing bubble, exacerbated by this illogical Work and Income policy. So not only do we have more houses than we otherwise would have had, but this puts up the demand for houses and so house prices rise.
This has been happening of course with younger beneficiaries for decades. Two single parents get together. Both are on the Domestic Purposes Benefit and there is a major financial disincentive to share a single house, a single washing machine, car etc etc.
So not only does the lack of a Basic Income (unconditional, whatever your living arrangements are) discourage intimacy and thrift, but it expands our cities towards ever more green fields, costs us in infrastructure of sewerage, water and stormwater, but it leaves the poor to fend for themselves in caravans and garages or to share with other families.