National, Labour back spatting over tax as report paints grim picture for housing market

The Reserve Bank's latest financial stability report paints a grim picture for our housing market and your pocket if prices continue to fall.

But while on paper our central bank was sounding bleak on Wednesday, in person it's attempting to temper its post-Halloween fright.

Karan Malhotra bought his first home late last year but said it has "created lots and lots of anxiety". 

His mortgage rate's recently doubled, which means paying $800 a fortnight. On top of that, his property's now worth $200,000 less than what he paid.

"People have advised me to get another job but I cannot because I'm also studying. I'm working full-time and studying full-time as well."

Malhotra is one of the around 30,000 homeowners in the same position. 

The Reserve Bank's latest Financial Stability report shows more mortgage mayhem could be on the way.

"You've got inflation high, and then you've got interest rates going up and going up a lot… So think about that flowing through your household budget if you've locked in your mortgage for a couple years," said David Cunningham from mortgage brokers Squirrel. 

Two percent of our housing stock is in negative equity - which means the mortgage is larger than the current market value of the property.

If the Reserve Bank's predictions that house prices will fall a further 5 percent come true, negative equity could affect somewhere between 7 and 18 percent of the market.

"This is our financial stability report, so it's the one where we put the gloomy hat on deliberately," said Christian Hawkesby, the deputy Reserve Bank Governor. 

Something that won't help though - our unemployment rate. It's still at a low 3.3 percent, sustaining pressure on the already tight labour market. 

"Employment is beyond maximum sustainable employment at the moment," said Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr.

But Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he is "never going to stand here today and not celebrate having low unemployment".

Even if you're not a homeowner there's still a warning because our cost of living clouds are settling in. 

"We're telling Kiwis to think and look ahead," said Hawkesby.

National's solution is tax cuts. But a different report out on Wednesday has found their plan will give our wealthiest ten times what it would give low to middle-income earners.

"Lifting those tax thresholds is a much better way than giving them a rinky-dink cost of living payment that lasted for three months," said leader Christopher Luxon.

"I actually don't think New Zealanders should trust National on tax," said Robertson. 

That's not the last time you'll hear those tax attacks.