20 Jan 2020

The driving factors behind New Zealand's 'severely unaffordable' housing market

6:27 pm on 20 January 2020

Red tape, inflated land prices, rock-bottom interest rates, migration and speculation are fuelling New Zealand's runaway property market.

Aerial view of Auckland city, New Zealand

Experts say there are a range of factors driving New Zealand's runaway property market. Photo: 123rf

The 16th annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey released today ranks all eight markets in New Zealand as "severely unaffordable".

Wellington IT professional Chris McKenzie is 32, single, earns good money and has saved a decent deposit.

But he expects he would struggle to pay a mortgage alone, which is why he is considering more creative ways of getting into the market, such as a group purchase.

"It really looks like one of the better ways of getting a mortgage paid off would be ... for a person on a single income to share that with other people on single incomes. Granted, there's a risk if one person can't pay, then you've got to plan for that."

Co-author of the Demographia report, Hugh Pavletich, blames inflated land prices due to planning restrictions.

He was optimistic that legislation currently before Parliament to relax planning rules and fund infrastructure would make housing more affordable in future.

But he said local councils should be making more land available now.

Shamubeel Eaqub

Shamubeel Eaqub. Photo: Supplied

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub agreed more flexible planning rules and financing for infrastructure were needed so more houses could be built.

But he said simply freeing up land won't fix the housing crisis for the most vulnerable.

"If there's something the government can do immediately, I think it's massively increasing our amount of public housing. There is a real and urgent need that cannot be solved any other way."

Fellow economist Nick Goodall from CoreLogic says houses are actually more affordable than they were three years ago by some measures, including the share of income needed for mortgage repayments.

That's due to the fall in interest rates - which also allows people to borrow more.

Goodall said investors grabbed more than one in four properties in October, beating out first-home buyers, who had a 24 percent market share.

"Talk about a more comprehensive capital gains tax got ruled out and so we've seen those investors gain a bit more confidence and come back into the market in the latter half of last year."

The Property Investors Federation chief executive Andrew King didn't believe investors are pushing first-home buyers out of the market.

"Only 7 percent of the population actually owns rental properties. The numbers have to work and at the moment it's actually quite hard to make a rental property work."

King said it was pressure from migration driving house prices.

It had always been hard to get on the property ladder - but for different reasons, he said.

He had to get a second job to afford the interest on his first home.

"It will mean hardship, there's just no way around it. If you want to own your own property you have to forgo other things and you have to save a lot of your income in order to get that deposit.

King's advice to first home buyers is "don't give up".

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