Housing capital gains are soaring in New Zealand

Analysis by Newshub has revealed just how much the housing market has risen since the last election.

The median capital gain for a New Zealand home in that time is just over $65,000. But that figure gets much, much higher when zooming into certain areas.

Here are the top five:

5. Wellington: A median capital gain of $185,000 per house in less than three years.

4. The Thames Coromandel area: The median capital gain is $200,000 per house.

3. Tauranga: Homeowners have made a capital gain of $206,000.

2. Auckland: A capital gain per house of $250,000.

1. Queenstown Lakes District: A whopping capital gain per house of $378,000.

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Architect Ryan Cardno and teacher Kelly Blair have been looking for a house in Queenstown for a couple of years. Ms Blair is six months pregnant with their first child.

Mr Cardno says the couple are debt free and they've been saving for four years. But no matter how hard they save their first home remains out of reach.

"Queenstown is just a circus at the moment," Mr Cardno says. "We're not asking for a palace. And we don't want one. We just can't do it here.

"The supply in non-existent unless you have deep pockets."

But looking elsewhere in the South Island doesn't make it any easier.

Housing capital gains are soaring in New Zealand
Photo credit: Newshub

Houses in Nelson have made a capital gain of $139,000. In central Otago, the gain is $123,000. In both Blenheim and Dunedin its $80,000.

Others in Queenstown in the same situation as Mr Cardno and Ms Blair have packed up and moved to more affordable regions. But the couple don't want to do the same.

"We both have well-paying jobs here in Queenstown and it would mean leaving both of those well-paid jobs to try and find something elsewhere. And it's definitely not a guarantee," says Ms Blair.

"We've had lots of friends that have moved. We don't want to move. Our friends, and community, and jobs are here," says Mr Cardno.

It only gets worse in the North Island.

Housing capital gains are soaring in New Zealand
Photo credit: Newshub

Houses in Auckland, Tauranga, Thames-Coromandel, and Wellington have gained more than $200,000.

Significant gains have also been made in Whangarei, where median house prices are up $175,000. In Hamilton it's $170,000 and in Porirua it's $152,000.

The data

The data comes from Homes.co.nz. Its spokesman Jeremy O'Hanlon says the level and reach of capital gains is frightening.

"In regions where there's no real population growth, you're still seeing 50 percent increases in property prices. It's just not sustainable."

He says it's an indication of a growing gap between the rich and poor.

"It's really hard to control such a wealth gap. It's on steroids," he says.

Mr O'Hanlon says there's no silver bullet to reign such fast-growing capital gains, and it's not just simple as introducing a new tax.

There won't be a capital gains tax, no matter who wins the election

It used to be Labour's policy to introduce a comprehensive capital gains tax of 15 percent on all property sales other than the family home. But leader Andrew Little scrapped the policy when he became Labour leader in 2014.

National doesn't support a new tax.

Who is to blame?

Both Mr Cardno and Ms Blair say it comes down to leadership from local and central Government, and blame both for a lack of action on housing.

"As far as we're concerned, the Government's not doing anything about it," says Mr Cardno.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce says it's much more complex than an intervention by the Government. He's also suspicious about only using data since the last election.

"You've got to be careful picking a two-and-a-half-year period because if you go back and have a look at some of those regions prior to 2014, some of them took a long time to recover after the global financial crisis," he says.

He argues the figures are a good sign of regional economic growth. "There's plenty of people in these regions who would say 'it's great news, my region's really taking off'." 

However, he admits the rate of capital gain growth won't last forever.

"Be careful not to assume that this will always continue because we are in rather unusual times with low interest rates. Assuming it will go up at this rate is a mistake," says Mr Joyce.

Labour blames Govt

Labour says the Government is entirely to blame for allowing the housing market to get to this level of rapid capital gain.

Its housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says the National government has had nine years to reign in the growth, but hasn't.

"We have to turn this around, and the good news is that we can. It's just a matter of adopting policies that reduce demand and increase supply."

Labour's solution is to radically reform the housing market with three policies.

  • Speculator tax: Sell a rental property within 5 years of buying it, the capital gain will be treated as an income, and taxed as an income.
  • Foreign buyer ban: Foreigners cannot buy homes. If they want property in New Zealand, they have to move here and build a new house.
  • Tax loophole crackdown: Existing loopholes that benefit speculators will be closed.

"We are going to squeeze the speculation out of the market and we will make homeownership affordable once again for young Kiwi families," says Mr Twyford.