Housing crisis: Everything points towards a market correction in 2022 - economist

Christopher Luxon earlier this week said he doesn't know how much he's made from his Auckland property empire in the past year, and now might not be a good time to start paying attention. 

Economists are picking values to fall in 2022, after new statistics showed close to half all new building consents issued in the year to October were in the overpriced city.

Consents nationwide are at their highest since the mid-1970s, with almost 48,000 issued in just 12 months - up 26 percent on 2020, and four times the number being issued a decade ago. 

Of those just shy of 20,000 were in Auckland, helping put dents in the country's housing crisis that's sent average prices across much of the country into seven figures. 

"I think the shortages will persist for another two, maybe three years across New Zealand in aggregate," economist Cameron Bagrie told The AM Show on Thursday.

"We're seeing a faster supply-side response is in Auckland… about 20,000 of those have been up in Auckland, a big surge in townhouse numbers in particular. At the same time, Auckland's population actually shrunk in the last 12 months."

While the number of consents rose 26 percent, Auckland's share of that grew slightly faster. They're also becoming more affordable - the total value of residential consents rising just 14 percent.

Property values have been increasing beyond traditionally affordable levels for years, defying expectations they have to stabilise or even fall at some point. But Bagrie thinks that time has finally come - and not just because supply is slowly catching up to demand.

With the borders closed for nearly two years now thanks to COVID-19, migration has ground to a halt, a far cry from the days when tens of thousands would arrive at a time when construction was at record lows.

"We started to underbuild... at the same time we were seeing population growth over a number of years of up around 90,000 a year - 30,000 core population growth, natural increases; plus about 60,000 migration a year. At the moment we've got no migration… there's been a massive turnaround."

The nation's border isn't the only one that potential migrants are waiting to open. Auckland's border drops on December 15, and Bagrie expects 2022 to see residents flee for cheaper regions. 

"I think Auckland's going to see a pretty big intra-regional migration loss in the next 12 months… post-COVID, I think we're going to see a pretty big acceleration of people shifting out of Auckland into the regions, also at a time when Auckland building consents are absolutely surging."

That, on top of Reserve Bank moves to tighten lending and up interest rates and the Government's tax changes to discourage speculation - not to mention the sheer unaffordability - should see the market make a long-awaited downturn in 2022, says Bagrie. 

"I think it's prime for tough times in the latter part of 2022 which some people won't like, but I think it's fundamentally a good story about bringing the market back into a little bit more balance. House prices are going to fall… valuations are stretched, you've got the regulator of the Reserve Bank telling the banks to rein things in, banks are reining things in, you've got a fundamental shift in the housing supply situation in Auckland, interest rates are starting to move up…. and we've got these tax changes. The tax changes have already shifted the investor market."

There is one catch however - Aucklanders can't live in a consent. The house has to actually be built, construction being held by "the lack of available materials, and two, the lack of availability of skilled workers".

"The good news is we've got a pipeline; the struggle factor is that that pipeline is going to take a little bit of time… but when you're consenting almost 48,000 houses a year, that's a pretty big number. At that rate we're eating into those housing shortages pretty quickly. 

"To put 48,000 into perspective, population growth in the last 12 months has been about 30,000. We're consenting in excess of 1.5 houses for every person we add to the population - that's a pretty big shift from what we've been doing for a number of years."