More relaxed bank mortgage lending policies, political unity and an expansion of apprenticeship schemes to ease tensions in New Zealand's biggest city -- that's what the boss of Auckland's biggest real estate agency wants. Outlining potential housing crisis solutions, Peter Thompson, Barfoot & Thompson managing director, says affordability is his biggest worry but a four-point plan could deal with some of the issues. He says there is no quick fix but suggests a combination of factors:
1. Easing lending:
The Reserve Bank should relax the loan to value ratios for first home buyers on all purchases of residential properties under $500,000 in New Zealand including Auckland. "I've been trying to raise it for a long time through various means we have with political parties" He wants the restrictions on investors to remain. However, the Reserve Bank has long expressed concerns about the housing market's risk to New Zealand's economy and on October 1, more restrictive lending policies come into force.
2. Political unity:
Thompson would like to see political parties form a group on housing affordability -- "like they did with superannuation" -- and try to come up with a paper of substance and implement that. Polls show next year's election could see the Greens and New Zealand First gain more seats, he noted.
3. More training:
More apprenticeships in electrical, plumbing and building. "There's some dodgy buildings," he says, citing currently high building inspection failure rates revealed by Auckland Council. "We need quality builders who don't put up leaky homes. There are definitely some dodgy buildings."
4. Patience on housing supply:
Thompson says this issue is being addressed but he indicated patience was needed because vast new housing estates don't rise overnight. "There's a lot of criticism about the growth but it takes two to three years to get an apartment block designed, sold, built and opened. So we will see lots of new product in the next 12 to 18 months but things just don't happen overnight." He is optimistic the Unitary Plan will create one planning rule book for the entire city.
Thompson also has strong views on a number of other issues in relation to housing, particularly in Auckland. Low interest rates concern him "Because banks are lending a lot of money and if they put the percentage up to 3 or 4 per cent, how many people will be able to afford that? Then you start to get mortgagee sales and you don't wish that on anyone." Migration is also an issue "China, Australia, New Zealand returnees, UK, Americans -- they're all coming for a different lifestyle, and some for work, and now we've got Brits from Brexit." Thompson says the tourism sector's growth hit home when he went to Fiji for a weekend with friends and had to disembark in Auckland on to the tarmac because no air bridges were available. He says housing supply is dogging the entire real estate sector and wonders wonder whether too much information is confusing the situation. Thompson is also concerned about confusion, particularly when data sets on housing contradict each other. On homelessness he says: "Every major city has it. I would love to have every person living in a property of some sort but they have to be able to help themselves. There's a few private investors trying to help, behind the scenes."