Opinion: John Key's Trade Me comments offensive to first-home buyers

The Auckland property market is kind of like a real-life bad game of Monopoly (Getty)
The Auckland property market is kind of like a real-life bad game of Monopoly (Getty)

"This is what it feels like when you're playing monopoly and some dickhead has all the spaces with houses and hotels", said a friend on Facebook last night. He was replying to a comment from someone else about Auckland's median house price hitting $955,000. 

For my generation, the monthly release of the QV figures has become a repetitive trigger for despair. As a colleague put it yesterday, "it's depressing to know you'll never be able to buy a house in the city you grew up in".

Last night, I went to yet another auction. I suspected the property would go for more than I could afford, but I decided to put myself through another round of torture just in case I got lucky (I didn't).

A couple of years ago the council thought the property was worth $630,000. It sold for almost twice that.

Somebody was actually excited to pay $1,130,000 for a tiny three-bedroom home in Mount Wellington/Ellerslie with small rooms, no underfloor insulation, a badly dated bathroom and kitchen, and a lounge that doesn't make sense. 

Another property​ in central Auckland​ sold yesterday for over a million dollars. It was a P-damaged shell, with no internal walls left intact.

Within months you will have to be a millionaire to buy an average home in our biggest city.

We have a generation of Kiwis who can't get into the market, rents are going up, people are living in cars -- yet, if we are to believe the Government, what we have is not a crisis -- it's a "housing challenge".

The Prime Minister even had the audacity yesterday to brush aside suggestions there was a lack of affordable housing in Auckland.

"You go on Trade Me this afternoon and Google properties in Auckland for under $500,000," he said. "You'll find there's quite a few."

I find that line offensive. Because he is plain wrong. 

I should know -- I spend a lot of time on Trade Me looking at houses and I checked.

I'm looking for a house. Last night there were 345 Trade Me listing for houses under $500,000.

That sounds reasonable, until you realise it includes:

That leaves us with 185 actual 'houses' on Trade Me. However, most are listed based on CV, and we all know nothing in Auckland sells for anything near its CV. So, if we write-off another third -- to get a more realistic number -- we're left with 123 properties that may sell for under $500,000.

That's 3 percent of the properties listed for sale in Auckland.

I'm sorry Prime Minister, 3 percent does not count as "quite a few".

I felt optimistic this time last year, when the Government announced its bright-line test targeting investors.

I thought surely that, coupled with the tougher LVR's from the Reserve Bank, would make a difference.

But, I was wrong. It did absolutely nothing.

The Government will today announce a 'National Policy Statement' on housing. Effectively, it's an attempt to force councils to put building houses ahead of other priorities when they make decisions.

The Government will trumpet this as doing something about the housing "challenge". But I suspect it's just more tinkering -- another attempt to look like they're addressing the issue, without really doing anything.

In reality, any impact this new policy will have on prices is years away. It takes time build houses.

I'm getting sick of the Government's attitude on housing. It's dismissive, arrogant and it keeps blaming other people, when its hands have been on the wheel for eight years.

What we have is actually worse than a bad game of Monopoly. Old Kent Road costs a million bucks. There is no passing go in the Auckland property game -- no free $200. There's no second prize in the beauty pageant. And there's nothing left in the community chest -- that money is tied up fixing the infrastructure we didn't have the foresight to plan in advance.