Government pays out half a billion dollars in First Home Grants

Figures obtained by Newshub show nearly half a billion dollars has been paid out by the Government to first-home buyers in the past five years to help with their deposits. 

One of them was Fraser Mann, who together with his partner, was able to purchase a $600,000 property in Auckland. The Government chipped in $20,000 towards their $60,000 deposit. 

"It was super helpful because it's not just the deposit you're paying for. It's everything else after that - furniture moving in, appliances, your lawyer fees - everything," he told Newshub. 

It was one of 82,927 First Home Grants paid out for the financial year ending June 30, 2017 to financial year ending June 30, 2022, totalling nearly half a billion dollars: $442,401,000.

First Home Grants give up to $10,000 per person. But to be eligible you must've been contributing to KiwiSaver for three years, earn less than the set income caps, live in the property for at least six months, and the house can't exceed a certain price

While those grants are cash that doesn't need to be paid back the Government also provides First Home Loans. Buyers of those homes only need a 5 percent deposit because the loans are underwritten by Kāinga Ora. 

The Government's housing agency has underwritten 7280 loans since 2017 valued at $2 billion ($2,437,239,091). 

But with interest rates rising and banks tightening their lending restrictions, a new survey of 1000 Kiwis by Sharesies and Kantar found only 36 percent are now considering buying a property, down 10 percent compared to last year.

It means New Zealand's historic love affair with real estate may finally be declining.

Mortgage advisor Jamie Sanderson said while First Home Grants and First Home Loans are great, there's room for improvement.

"One thing that could really help first-home buyers is to increase the salary cap because one thing we see is especially when it comes to the bank lending criteria, a lot of people just fall short," he told Newshub. 

It's people like Brad Proctor. 

"The income threshold... The first barrier, having no idea that there was a threshold at all," he told Newshub. "It was open to us and then we just couldn't get it, purely based on my brother and I going in on it together."

The Government expanded house price caps in May but not income caps. It's promised to review both, every six months. 

A Ministry for Housing and Urban Development told Newshub the number of homes purchased with a First Home Loan per month has more than doubled since the May changes came into effect, from 57 homes in the month of April to 180 homes in October.

A new income cap category was introduced for individual buyers with dependents.