Auckland houses out of reach despite KiwiSaver help


Labour says few of the houses that will be built under Auckland's Unitary Plan look like they will be affordable.

It says modelling done for the Independent Hearings Panel predicted only 15 percent of the houses that will be built within the existing urban area will cost less than $800,000.

Less than 2 percent will cost under $600,000 and only one dwelling is expected to be sold for under $500,000.

Labour says the mortgage on a $600,000 house costs nearly half of the median Auckland income, so it calculates 98 percent of the 247,000 planned houses will be unaffordable.

These numbers are for the existing city limits. More than 100,000 dwellings are proposed for the edges of the city.

The Government will argue that it does not think many first-time buyers will purchase a new home or apartment. Instead they will buy from the existing housing supply.

Housing Minister Nick Smith also makes the point that as more houses are built it will help lower the price of the existing homes.

On top of that, the Government has expanded the eligibility for the KiwiSaver HomeStart scheme.

The scheme started on April 1, 2015, and provides grants of up to $10,000 towards the deposit for the purchase of an existing home and grants of up to $20,000 for a newly built home.

From August 1 the income caps will increase from $80,000 to $85,000 for a single person, and from $120,000 to $130,000 for a couple.

Price caps for existing houses

Price caps for new houses

Housing Minister Nick Smith says a couple on an average income each of $60,000 could potentially afford a $650,000 home, by withdrawing $45,000 from five years invested in KiwiSaver, getting a $20,000 HomeStart grant for buying a new build, and being eligible for a Welcome Home Loan with a 10 percent deposit.

Labour says that so far only 9 percent of the applications for grants have gone to people living in Auckland (1139 out of 11,943 grants were paid to first-time buyers in Auckland).

So who is right? Labour or National?

The reality is that no one thing is going to fix Auckland's housing affordability issue.

More houses will help, because increased supply should lead to an overall lowering of prices.

Changes to the existing tax rules might help as well, by encouraging people to shift investment from property into businesses making products or developing intellectual property.

Even an improvement in the Australian economy would help. Why? It would reverse the migration numbers from Australia.

At the moment New Zealand is receiving around a net 2,000 people a year from Australia. The long run average is a net loss to Australia each year of 17,000 people.