16 Apr 2015

Minister quizzed on $550,000 Auckland homes

7:21 am on 16 April 2015

Lively debate erupted at a public meeting in west Auckland last night over the Government's new home buyers' scheme.

Over 100 people attended the first of the Government's public meetings on the new home buyers' scheme, in Henderson.

Over 100 people attended the first of the Government's public meetings on the new home buyers' scheme, in Henderson. Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman

About 120 people turned out in Henderson to the first of 20 public meetings to be held nationwide on the HomeStart scheme, which came into effect on 1 April.

The scheme gives first-time buyers grants of up to $20,000 and lets eligible KiwiSaver members use more of their funds on their first property.

The Government is aiming to help up to 90,000 New Zealanders into their first home over the next five years.

Dr Nick Smith.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith told the gathering not to blame foreign buyers (file photo). Photo: RNZ

Shortly after Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith started his presentation, a protest broke out outside over the Government's selling of state houses.

Dr Smith had to speak up to drown out the chanting that could be heard, but after a few minutes it died down completely.

He explained the current situation in west Auckland to the gathering of concerned residents, which included parents and first-time buyer hopefuls.

"The average earnings for a single person is $47,000. If they'd been in KiwiSaver for five years, them and their partner will have built up $35,000 excluding that $1000 kickstart grant.

"So they'll have access to $35,000 there. If they're buying a new house, they'll then be able to pick up a $20,000 grant ... That gives them $55,000.

"They'll then be able to pick up a Welcome Home Loan and they'll be in the marketplace to be able to purchase a home up to $550,000 for a new property in west Auckland."

When asked where houses costing less than $550,000 could be found, Dr Smith said there were currently 53 on the market in the area.

"Sir, I'd be happy to bet you the best bottle of wine from Nelson - not west Auckland - that there are houses available in Hobsonville at $440,000," he said.

"It is true that they sell very quickly. It is true that the Hobsonville development as a whole is moving at such pace that they are selling houses a year in advance of them being constructed."

building partially completed in Hobsonville

Construction continues on a new building at Hobsonville Point in west Auckland. Photo: SUPPLIED

Foreign buyers not the problem - Smith

A woman then raised the issue of foreign buyers swooping in at auctions: "I went to support a friend today in an auction, and every single house by Barfoot & Thompson in the city, every single house, had someone on the phone to someone in China that were bidding on those houses."

Dr Smith strongly rejected the claim.

"Every time there's a difficult issue, people want to take the cheap option and say it's all the foreigners' fault. It's a cheap out and it's not the truth.

"If we actually look at the facts on the proportion of homes that are owned in New Zealand by overseas people, the advice is that it is about 2.1 percent."

A resident, Wayne McCullough, described the scheme as an ad hoc way to address a major problem in Auckland and elsewhere in the country.

"The Government's going to give you $20,000 and they're asking you to take your KiwiSaver money out to help cope with the housing crisis; $20,000 is not enough, I'd say $100,000 is not enough."

He said a lot of young people have given up on the prospect of owning a house and instead are choosing to live in the 'now' and spend their money on trips overseas.

But one couple said they were very happy with the scheme.

"We're looking at building our deposit at the moment so maybe in 2016 we can look at doing a build, probably in the South Island. It's all working out nicely."

Public meetings will also be held tonight in Christchurch and on Friday in Nelson.

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