Opinion: KiwiBuild a free-for-all

KiwiBuild promised to deliver 100,000 affordable houses to help first-home buyers realise the Kiwi dream.

It promised to help average Kiwis into their first home.

But the income test is anything but average. The income caps are so high they may as well not exist.

A solo buyer can earn up to $120,000 a year. A couple can earn up to $180,000.

The median income in New Zealand is just under $50,000, and median household income is just over $82,000.

When I heard the Government was going to introduce income caps to the policy it was looking set to be another broken promise - Labour had originally promised universality.

But in effect there is no real income cap. Only the top 8 percent won't be able to buy these homes.

It's a free-for-all.

This is not going to help those on low or middle incomes - they'll be locked out by relatively high wage earners.

The Housing Minister has used the example of teachers, nurses and cops.

"For instance a couple of teachers may have a combined income of between $150,000 and $170,000. For a nurse and police officer earning upwards of $120,000, and for an engineer living alone, $90,000.

"A decade ago these families would have been able to afford a home, but they are now locked out of the market," Phil Twyford said.

Actually most of those examples are in the top decile of income earners.

According to an MSD report on household incomes released in June last year, a top decile equivalised income for a solo earner with no kids is anything over $80,800.

And the top decile for a couple kicks in at $124,500.

Further there'll be no asset checks for those buying a first home meaning so long as your income is below the caps, you could have millions locked away in assets other than housing and still be eligible to get the keys to a KiwiBuild house.

The policy compels buyers to live in the home for three years. Easy. If you sell after three years, you could still be in for a windfall.

The difference between these houses and those built by the private sector is that the developers will not make a profit. They'll be sold at cost to first-home buyers.

If the homebuyer then want to sell them, however, they won't have to sell it at cost.

Once the house is on the free market its competing with all the similar houses that were sold at a higher rate, with the developers profits built into the price. That could significantly raise the value of these homes - particularly in the first few years of the programme.

Plus, three years isn't even the benchmark for how long genuine homebuyers should hold onto a home. It's two years less than the government's bright line test - the pseudo-capital gains tax introduced to curb property speculation.

Smart young investors will see this policy for what it is - an opportunity for them to get their foot on the property ladder, exploit a government system and put them one step ahead of their peers.

There's already more than 6000 registrations of interest. The Government is only building 1000 houses in the first year of KiwiBuild. Just 30 are under construction.

So when you look at all those factors what chance does the average New Zealander actually have at realising the Kiwi dream?

The reality is the odds are stacked against them.

Jenna Lynch is a political reporter for Newshub.


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