Property editor of the NZ Herald

Property: Mad truths on home prices in Auckland

Labour Party spokesman Phil Twyford said the Government's housing policy had failed. Photo / Greg Bowker
Labour Party spokesman Phil Twyford said the Government's housing policy had failed. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland housing affordability has worsened and it remains one of the 10 least affordable big cities in the world.

Auckland's surging housing market is now only slightly cheaper than London but pricier than Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, Perth, Brisbane and Boston.

The latest Demographia survey, released today, compares prices with incomes in 378 cities, including 86 with more than one million people.

Auckland is one of the most unaffordable places due to its high house prices and low incomes.

Hong Kong ranks as the least affordable city in the world.

Auckland is the ninth most expensive big city, and 14th most expensive of all the 378 surveyed.

In 2013, the survey found the median house price here was $506,800 and the median household income was $75,200. This gave the city a total "median multiple" of 6.7 (house prices divided by incomes). Anything more than 3 is regarded as unaffordable.

Last year, Auckland's median price jumped to $561,700 but the median household income fell to $70,500, giving a median multiple of 8.

Zoom in on this interactive to see how cities in the survey fared:


- Some locations are approximate

Now, the median house price has climbed to $613,000 and income to $75,100, giving a multiple of 8.2 and maintaining Auckland's top 10 spot for unaffordable major cities.

Property Council chief Connal Townsend blamed Auckland Council's planning regulations.

"We've got houses more expensive than LA. How is this possible? A dump in Pt Chevalier demands a million dollars, which gets you a mansion in Beverly Hills. We've reached the point of madness."

Survey authors Hugh Pavletich of Christchurch and Wendell Cox of the United States criticised the Government and Auckland Council for failing to ease affordability by vastly increasing housing supply via the Housing Accord and its 80 Special Housing Areas, but said the situation was bad in other areas too.

"This year's survey rates Auckland housing at 8.2 times annual household incomes; Tauranga 6.8; Christchurch 6.1 [the same as New York]; Wellington 5.2; Napier-Hastings 5.1; Hamilton 4.7; Dunedin 4.6 and Palmerston North 4.1 times. Overall, the major New Zealand metros are rated severely unaffordable at 5.2 times annual household incomes ... "

They blamed inadequate land supply, inappropriate infrastructure financing and "exasperating bureaucratic process bottlenecks".

But Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said new residential construction data showed success.


Auckland's surging house market is pricier that New York. Pictured are apartments in central New York City. Photo / Thinkstock

"I just don't accept there's been no progress when the latest building consent figures confirm the fastest rate of new-house building in seven years in key centres like Christchurch, building consent rates doubling in the past 12 months and in Auckland growing about 30 per cent."

Dr Smith said housing affordability problems went back 25 years but the Government was planning additional reforms this year, particularly around the Resource Management Act.

Council housing project director Ree Anderson said Special Housing Areas had enabled the city to increase the supply of serviced land.

"SHAs are accelerating the rezoning of future urban zoned land to live residential zones and boosting the ready-to-go land supply for housing development."

Ms Anderson said the rezonings were required to be approved within six months once lodged with the council - a radical departure from the slower RMA process.

Labour Party spokesman Phil Twyford said the Government's housing policy had failed. "Nick Smith has been minister for two years now, and under his watch housing affordability in Auckland has got worse. They have failed to significantly increase the supply of new homes. Consents are running at about half what Auckland needs just to stand still."

Sam Yin, whose Mandarin website hougarden.com promotes NZ properties for sale, said Chinese spent nearly US$37 billion on foreign residential property in 2013 and more should be encouraged to come here to build.

Mayor: Council can deliver solutions

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said he believed the council was on track to offer affordable housing to residents.

Mr Brown told TV3's Firstline he were seeing a lot of progress when it came to ensuring housing was becoming more affordable.

"...Council and the government doesn't build houses, by and large we provide the right framework for the building of the houses, we make sure the red tape is got rid of so people can actually build quickly."

Mr Brown told the programme that in November last year building consents were at a record highs for the last seven years, with 967 new building consents, 40 per cent of which were apartments offering new housing choices.

He said he did not believe prices of apartments were too high. He said the average price of an apartment was around $300,000 to $450,00

"We are seeing them being built at an affordable level," Mr Brown said.

He told the programme the council was also working closely with the government to deliver special housing areas.

"The key thing there is, we really want to see affordable homes... something under $500,000."

He said last year in Waimahia in South Auckland, 28 new homes with four to five bedrooms were built with an average price of $450,000.

"These are beautiful homes... being snapped up by families which have never owned a home before... so I think we are in the right frame working closely with the government and the sector."

Analysis: So ... what can be done?

Auckland is extraordinarily expensive relative to incomes and rents but the solutions need to be broader than what Demographia argues on land supply, writes Shamubeel Eaqub, principal economist at the NZIER.

We must make renting more attractive. Tenancy policy and agreements provide flexibility but this is a barrier to regarding renting as a substitute for owning. More balanced tenure and tenants' rights in Britain and Germany support renting as a normal alternative.

We must make land and house supply more responsive. Rules and local politics, fuelled by nimbyism, mean greenfield development and intensification are not as responsive to demand as they could be.

We must eliminate the property investment bias in banking. Current regulation does not fully recognise the systemic risk, and a higher capital requirement may be justified. The loan-to-value ratio requirement is an insufficiently targeted intervention. We also must clarify tax rules and improve data on housing market turnover to aid policy-making.

- NZ Herald

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