'Most people are happy about house prices rising'

Regional house prices are rocketing, but Auckland is still way out in front (Getty)
Regional house prices are rocketing, but Auckland is still way out in front (Getty)

The New Zealand housing market isn't a bubble, according to BNZ's chief economist - it's undergoing a permanent "repricing".

And there's little the Reserve Bank or the Government can do.

"There's nothing solid at all that's going to come through and stop this," Tony Alexander told Paul Henry this morning.

"This is a repricing of the entire housing stock of New Zealand to reflect the fact that interest rates are going to be sitting at a far lower level in the coming decades than has been the case for the past 30 years or so."

The Reserve Bank is stuck between a rock and a hard place - that place used to just be Auckland, but is fast becoming the entire country. The latest Quotable Value figures have prices rocketing up around the entire country.

"The problem for the Reserve Bank is they want to lower interest rates because inflation's only 0.4 percent, but they want to raise interest rates because that's a way of slowing down the housing market," says Mr Alexander.

They can't do both, and they can't raise them without plunging homeowners into debt, says Mr Alexander, so instead they're turning to tools last used before the 1980s Rogernomics revolution. But that's not working either.

"The market's moving away from them more rapidly than they can act. They definitely need to do something, like today."

One suggestion is raising loan-to-value ratios as high as 75 percent - but that will lock out all but the wealthiest investors. Mr Alexander says that's no different to boosting interest rates.

And Labour's plan to build 10,000 affordable houses a year won't fly because we don't have enough builders. The party says it'll be announcing a comprehensive housing plan this weekend during its centenary celebrations.

While the Government is being accused of taking a "piecemeal" approach to fixing the crisis, Mr Alexander says for many, fast-rising property values are just fine and dandy.

"More people are happy about house prices rising than are unhappy - it's just that the happy people are keeping quiet about it. It's really only a crisis for those people who have not bought already, or the homeless at the bottom and people on very low incomes."

When QV releases the next quarterly figures in three months' time, Mr Alexander says he'll be saying the same thing - prices aren't coming down.


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