Opinion: Auckland's housing market is broken and it's a lie to deny it

Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Housing Nick Smith visit the Hobsonville housing development (Getty)
Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Housing Nick Smith visit the Hobsonville housing development (Getty)

I'm so sick of the dishonesty in this argument.

The lies. The short-sightedness. The incompetency.

Younger generations are having their chance of home ownership snatched away, and those who have let it happen are doing bugger-all.

Too many critics choose to focus on the perceived failings and unrealistic expectations of those trying to enter the market, rather than acknowledging the teetering Ponzi scheme that is the New Zealand housing market.

It's a dirty, lazy generalisation to say that Millennials (what an awful, meaningless term) are entitled and unrealistic. Just as it's a lazy generalisation to say all Baby Boomers are selfish, money-hungry parasites, growing fat and rich off the flesh of their own offspring. (I'm allowed to say this because I'm Gen X, the forgotten generation. But I digress.)

It's not about lofty expectations. Anyone who continues to peddle out that excuse is dealing in dishonesty.

The average Auckland house price is now 10 times the median household income. Two decades ago it was four-to-five times median household income.

Don't tell me it was just as hard to buy a house 50 years ago as it is today. The stats prove you plainly wrong.

For a start, there were low-interest Government loans not so long ago. By 1954 state home loans accounted for 34 percent of all new-home mortgages. By 1966 home ownership had risen to 69 percent. Clearly, houses were affordable, and there were enough of them.

What's changed? According to economist Shamubeel Eaqub, by 2001 just 61 percent of New Zealanders in their late 30s owned homes. By 2013, that had dropped to 50 percent. Eaqub says if house prices keep rising at expected rates, mortgage repayments will be more than the average income within seven years.

Why is an entire generation being shut out of the housing market? Did all those people suddenly up their expectations? Or was it because supply dried up, and house prices started rocketing?

Auckland needs 13,000 houses a year, for the next 30 years. We're currently building about 8,000. By 2018, it's estimated the shortfall could rise to 25,000 homes.

Anyone denying it's now harder to buy a house is lying, stupid, or quite possibly both.

Older generations, you know, the ones who received free healthcare, education, and superannuation for their ENTIRE LIVES, now sit snug in their homes, enjoying tax-free, triple-digit capital gains; while subsequent generations are being left out in the cold, watching helplessly as their home ownership dreams dissipate into the air.

Let me simplify things even further. They've done okay for themselves, pulled up the ladder behind them, and are now blaming their kids and grandkids for the situation they find themselves in.

"Lower your expectations!"

"We started at the bottom of the ladder!"

"Interest rates were much higher back then!"

A question: at what point did half-a-million dollars become synonymous with affordable? When did 'affordable Auckland housing' come to mean a house in Waikato?

Those who advocate urban sprawl bemoan the cost of the infrastructure and connections that requires.

"Building on the city fringes is so expensive! Better sell some assets!"

But any plan to intensify within the city, where utilities and infrastructure already exist, is met with further opposition by those who don't want to see their lifestyle or leafy neighbourhoods impinged.

"Build out, not up! Why ruin the city with three-storey apartments?!"

What nonsense. It's ignoring the real issue.

Take, for example, a five-bedroom home, next to the motorway, for sale in Otara. Put aside the concerns about the area. Look away from the development potential of the land. Ignore the horrific travel times in and out of the city. It's on the market for $600,000.

Whether that property's truly worth that, how many first-home buyers can afford $600,000? More importantly, how many can afford the $120,000 deposit?

Actually, let's add to that. House prices in Auckland have been increasing roughly 15 percent every year. So, in 12 months' time, if nothing else changes, THE DEPOSIT ALONE will have grown by another $18,000. $138,000 on a deposit. That's likely more than that property in Otara was worth 20 years ago.

Auckland is broken. And as younger people flee the city in search of a better life, of somewhere they can afford to live, prices around New Zealand will start to climb. It's already started.

We have failed future generations. And our Governments, our councils, our decision-makers, continue to do sweet sod-all.

It is obscene.

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