Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Economist Nouriel Roubini picks NZ housing bubble

New Zealand house prices are tipped to be in bubble territory. Photo/file
New Zealand house prices are tipped to be in bubble territory. Photo/file

Nouriel Roubini, the American economist and financial expert dubbed Dr Doom - who predicted last decade's global meltdown - has picked New Zealand as having one of the world's most precarious housing markets.

And it is precisely because we didn't suffer a big slump last decade - like Spain, Ireland or the United States - that we could be in for a hiding.

Roubini, widely acclaimed for his bearish views and insightful analysis, accurately picked the collapse of the United States housing market and the worldwide recession which started in 2008.

Now, he has ranked New Zealand in a group with 16 other countries as having a potentially toxic residential property market.

The Washington Post has reported him picking 17 countries as being in danger of suffering a calamity.

"Roubini sees housing prices getting out of whack in quite a few small and mid-sized nations that are well-governed and managed to avoid the worst economic effects of the financial crisis: Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the London metropolitan area of the UK," the Post reports.

"He adds some key emerging markets that show the same dynamic: Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Israel, the major urban centres on Turkey, Indonesia, India and Brazil."

The article was headlined: "These 17 countries may have housing bubbles. If they pop, God help us."

Roubini argued that he doesn't see bubbles where they were most severe before 2008 in places like the US, Spain or Ireland.

It is these other areas, including New Zealand, where he sees the greatest danger.

"Perhaps scariest of all, if Roubini is right, is that if these are bubbles that eventually pop, policymakers will not have the tools they had in 2008 to cushion the blow. The world's central banks, in particular, don't have much (arguably any) room to lower interest rates further," the Post says.

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler also thinks New Zealand house prices are a danger to our economy, hence October's loan to value ratio introduction to cool mortgage lending.

Wheeler has noted that over the past 25 years, many wealthy countries have experienced periods of substantial decline in house prices.

"In the United States, real net household wealth for the median household fell 39 per cent from 2007 to 2010, and a quarter of America's mortgage holders owed more on their houses than what their houses were worth," Wheeler wrote on the bank's website.

"Our concern is that excessive increases in house prices in parts of the country, if unchecked, pose increasing risk for the financial system and the broader economy," he wrote.

"New Zealand's house prices are expensive, based on international comparisons of house prices relative to rents and to levels of household income. And our household debt levels relative to disposable income having doubled over the past two decades are also very high," he wrote.

- NZ Herald

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