Claims of thousands of empty "ghost houses" adding to Auckland's housing crisis have been labelled "bollocks" by a leading economist. Shamubeel Eaqub told a gathering of about 100 lawyers, accountants, finance and property experts in Auckland this morning that there was not an empty housing problem in Auckland - as data showed the number of vacant residences had fallen. "There's nothing in empty houses that's different from the past," Eaqub said, showing a Statistics NZ chart which showed dropping vacant Auckland numbers. "If anything, we would have fewer ghost houses in the 2013 Census," Eaqub told the event, hosted by Crowe Horwath and MinterEllisonRuddWatts'. Census 2013 revealed about 33,000 vacant Auckland residences and some - including Auckland councillor Chris Darby have expressed concern, citing his area around Stanley Point where he says many overseas investors own ghost houses. Nick Smith, Building and Housing Minister, also sees no problem nationally or in Auckland. "Census data from 2006 to 2013 showed the number of unoccupied dwellings dropped from 7 per cent to 6.6 per cent. This 6.6 per cent vacancy rate equates to 24 days per year, or just over three weeks per home. There is nothing unusual about homes being vacant for about three weeks a year, noting people being away for holidays, houses being vacant for renovation and the times of vacancy between tenants or owners changing.
Housing is not a challenge but a crisis. Prices in Auckland are more expensive than in London, New York or San Francisco and we're not as competitive as those places. Auckland is on a potential path of greatness but we're shooting ourselves in the foot every day."The Auckland vacancy rate in the 2013 Census of 6.6 per cent was markedly less than the 10 per cent nationally. The lower vacancy rate in Auckland reflects a tighter and more expensive housing market than in other parts of the country," Smith said. Eaqub also challenged claims that tens of thousands of homes in Auckland's leafy suburbs were being rezoned for multiple townhouses and apartments without homeowners being notified about the changes.
Auckland had a similar proportion of vacant dwellings in 2001, 2006 and 2013, and it's also pretty similar to most other NZ cities.Eaqub advocates more intensification, "courtyard houses, townhouses, terraced houses. What's what the unitary plan wants. That's what the future residents want." House prices were threatening Auckland's status as an internationally competitive city, he said, "Housing is not a challenge but a crisis. Prices in Auckland are more expensive than in London, New York or San Francisco and we're not as competitive as those places. Auckland is on a potential path of greatness but we're shooting ourselves in the foot every day," he said, encouraging people to let go of the left-right political divide and engage more in resolving issues facing the city. "Auckland's quality of life is compromised and it's become difficult to attract and retain staff. Yet these problems have been accumuliating for decades." Ghost housing claims and concerns about the impact of the Unitary Plan on various suburbs have both been publicised in the Herald. John Polkinghorne of consultants RCG has also noticed a relative flat vacant dwelling numbers lately. "Auckland had a similar proportion of vacant dwellings in 2001, 2006 and 2013, and it's also pretty similar to most other NZ cities," he said citing Census figures.