Auckland stays near top of unaffordable list

By Kieran Campbell

Auckland homes are still unaffordable when compared with many world cities, says a new report. Photo / NZ Herald
Auckland homes are still unaffordable when compared with many world cities, says a new report. Photo / NZ Herald

An author of an international housing affordability survey that lists Auckland as one of the most unaffordable cities in the world says he has never been more confident that the trend in New Zealand was about to change.

The ninth Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey has found housing in New Zealand has become slightly more unaffordable in the last year, with median house prices now 5.3 times the median income (median multiple), up from 5.2.

All eight of New Zealand's property markets were "seriously" or "severely" unaffordable and London, New York and Los Angeles are all ranked more affordable than Auckland.

Hong Kong, China is the most unaffordable place to buy a house, with a median multiple of 13.5.

Christchurch-based co-author Hugh Pavletich said the Government was "now very strongly committed to doing what's necessary to start getting affordable housing built".

Pavletich said he had never been more confident something was being done about housing affordability since he started the annual Demographia survey in 2005.

However, Pavletich said the Government should have been "onto this issue" immediately after the 2008 election.

Housing affordability has now "gotten intolerable" and majority of New Zealanders want to see change, he said.

"This is the most confident I've been that there is actually going to be some change," he said.

Auckland continues to be the least affordable market, with a median multiple of 6.7, followed by Christchurch (6.6), Tauranga-Western Bay of Plenty (5.9), Wellington (5.4) and Dunedin (5.1) all severely unaffordable.

Palmerston North (4.4), Napier-Hastings (4.5) and Hamilton (4.7) are all ranked as seriously unaffordable.

Auckland is still more affordable than Australian cities Sydney (8.3) and Melbourne (7.5), but less affordable than Adelaide (6.5), Perth (5.9) and Brisbane (5.8).

Houses are now nearly 80 per cent more expensive than the historic affordability housing norm of 3 times the median income, which was last experienced in the 1990s.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, the Minister for Infrastructure, says the issue is "simple": "It costs too much and takes too long to build a house in New Zealand."

English, who wrote the introduction to the recent Demographia survey, said the Government was committed to addressing the findings by last year's Productivity Commission report on housing affordability.

He said the Government's focus was on "land supply, infrastructure provision, costs and delays due to regulatory processes and improve construction sector productivity".

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the report was "proof that the housing market is broken and that major government action is needed".

"Under National and previous governments, home ownership has become an unaffordable dream for many Kiwi families but it doesn't need to be that way," she said.

"Kiwi families need a government that will act, rather than play the part of a disinterested bystander."

Turei said Green policies, including a capital gains tax, would "remove speculators from the housing market and give families a fair chance of buying a home at an affordable price".

The affordability report points to urban containment policies, especially urban growth boundaries, as being responsible for the rising price of housing relative to income.

"This inevitably leads to a reduced standard of living and increases poverty rates because the unnecessarily higher costs of housing leave households with less discretionary income to spend on other goods and services," the report says.

"The higher costs ripple into rental markets, tightening the budgets of lower income households, who already suffer from lower discretionary incomes."


Affordability around the world:

Housing market, median multiple

Hong Kong, China, 13.5

Sydney, Australia, 8.3

Melbourne, Australia, 7.5

Auckland, New Zealand, 6.7

Adelaide, Australia, 6.5

New York, US, 6.2

Los Angeles, US, 6.2

Perth, Australia, 5.9

Brisbane, Australia, 5.8

London, United Kingdom, 5.1

Dublin, Ireland, 3.6

Source: Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

(Median multiple represents the median house price divided by the median income)

- APNZ

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