HOUSING - Disappearing Kiwi dream

12:12 pm on 14 August 2014

The Great Kiwi Dream of owning your own home is moving increasingly out of reach for many New Zealanders - ownership rates have fallen since the 1990s and prices are rising.

The Real Estate Institute says over the past seven years the national median price has increased by 23 percent with Auckland and Christchurch dominating the rise.

Historically low interest rates coupled with low-deposit lending has encouraged demand and increased pressure on the market.

The Reserve Bank intervened last October by introducing a restriction on low Loan-to-Value Ratio lending, which meant banks had to ensure that no more than 10 percent of mortgage lending was to people struggling to pay a 20 percent deposit on their house purchase.

The bank's governor Graeme Wheeler said house sales have dropped sharply since the restriction was introduced, though prices continue to rise, albeit at a slower rate.

Sold sign in front of house.

Lending restrictions have slowed house sales, although prices are still rising. Photo: RNZ

Incremental increases in the Official Cash Rate have also contributed to the rise in mortgage interest rates.

On the supply side, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) estimates that 20,000 to 23,000 new homes need to be built every year throughout the country to keep pace with population rises and market changes. But, it says, building consent volumes in the last three years have averaged less than 15,000 units per year.

The rental market is also heating up as fewer people buy their own homes and population growth boosts demand. According to MBIE, the average weekly rent for a three-bedroom house has risen by 28 percent in the eight years to 2013, $280 in 2005 to $359.

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Rental properties are in demand, with landlords raising prices. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Hip pocket issues - like housing - are naturally hot topics for an election campaign, so housing affordability is likely to feature in the lead-up to polling day, 20 September.

Rather than housing affordability being the issue, how to deal with it will be crucial this election. Both sides of the political spectrum have their theories about what would work to rein in prices and boost supply.

A building in Hobsonville.

Up to 23,000 new homes need to be built each year to match demand, according to MBIE. Photo: RNZ

To deal with supply issues, the last Government set up housing accords between central and local government aimed at speeding up new home building.

On the demand side a Welcome Home Loans scheme, introduced in 2003, is helping first-home buyers who have a 10 percent deposit.

In the social housing area, a new law enabled community housing providers to give more housing to people in need in partnership with the government. Reviewable tenancies for people living in social housing have also been introduced and some state housing stock has been sold.

Follow Chris Bramwell on Twitter @rnzgallerychris

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