Finance Minister Grant Robertson admits being 'too definitive' in ruling out bright-line extension during election

The Government has blindsided property investors by axing a tax loophole they use to pay less and often no tax, and they'll also pay tax if they sell a house within 10 years. 

The winners are first-home buyers, with income and house price caps for first home grants increased. And the Government has created a $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration fund to provide the infrastructure to get more developments underway. 

It could make a difference for the likes of Ellen Quirke, who told Newshub she's sick of trying and failing to buy a house in Auckland, where the median price has reached $1 million. 

"I quickly realised that buying something in Auckland wasn't going to be possible," she said. "So I've started looking elsewhere."

She's off to Whangārei - uprooting her family again. 

"My daughter's lived in - we were trying to count them - over 10 houses in her life and she's nine," said Quirke. "And that's just from the fact that we've never been able to afford to buy something."

The Government tried to make it easier for them on Tuesday by extending the first-home grant scheme.

To be eligible for up to $10,000 in a Government cash grant, sole buyers can now earn up to $95,000. Couples are eligible for up to $20,000 if they earn under $150,000 combined. 

About 3500 more single buyers will be eligible and 9000 more couples. 

The Government also lifted the price caps for the homes you can buy with those grants. Auckland price caps for new builds is now $700,000 while existing properties must be bought for under $625,000.

In Wellington homes can be up to $650,000 new or $550,000 for an old house; while in Nelson, Tauranga and Hamilton the caps were lifted to $600,000 and $525,000.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it will enable first-home buyers to "be able to get into the market", and that so much of the announcement is about them. 

Quirke says trying to find a property in Auckland under $650,000 is near impossible. 

And not just Auckland - the Government uses the example of a cop buying a house for $500,000 in Upper Hutt. This is the TradeMe search for that property.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson admits being 'too definitive' in ruling out bright-line extension during election
Photo credit: Screenshot / Trade Me

"This is a complex issue in which there is not one silver bullet," Ardern said. "We are pulling all of the levers we have."

That includes pulling the big old tax lever - the bright-line test - a tax on investment property if you sell within a certain period. It's been extended from five to 10 years, though there is an exemption for new builds.

"They've taken the bright-line test and turned it into a full-scale capital gains tax," said National leader Judith Collins. 

It's the lever Labour specifically promised not to pull. Newshub asked Ardern why the bright-line test has been extended when the Government ruled it out. 

"We were silent on the bright-line test," she replied. 

But they weren't. Finance Minister Grant Robertson was directly asked about it on the campaign.

"No," Robertson replied during the campaign when asked if the bright-line test would change. 

On Tuesday he said his comments were "too definitive" in that interview. 

"The Labour Party has lied to New Zealanders," said Collins. 

But this whopping broken promise wasn't the thing that caught property investors off guard - the removal of a tax loophole came out of nowhere. 

"Definitely feeling blindsided," said Sharon Cullwick of the New Zealand Property Investors Association. 

"It's really like the Government has decided that we're villains in this case and really we are providing houses for people to live in."

Ardern says the Government is trying to "tilt the playing field" towards first-home buyers.