Getting 2000 people out of a rental into their forever home could save the Government $17.5 million over 15 years.

The findings are part of a trio of research papers released today examining social and economic costs of renters versus those living in their own home.

It suggested getting people into their own home could alleviate a number of issues, such as ill-health linked to poorer quality rentals and a lack of community engagement among tenants that could be a factor in criminal offending, and thus save the Government spending on health and corrections.

Commissioned by the New Zealand Housing Foundation, a charitable trust, the research looks at how the insecurity of a rental environment could burden individuals and government.

Advertisement

One study, carried out by Business Economic Research Ltd (Berl), estimated helping renters move into their own home could save millions in taxpayers dollars over time.

BERL analysed Statistics New Zealand data around costs incurred by social housing tenants, private tenants and home owners in the areas of health, corrections and social benefits. It also took into account the amount of tax each group paid.

The researchers drew on established literature providing evidence that home-owners tended to do better in terms of health, wealth, education and were less involved in crime.

They hypothesised over 15 years former tenants would eventually mirror the behaviour of long-time home-owners.

On this assumption the researchers used the data around the costs incurred and tax paid by each group to look at how things would change if social renters were transitioned into their own home.

In the first scenario, when 1000 private renters became owner-occupiers, it estimated the potential net fiscal saving over 15 years to be $6.4m.

If the same number of social renters were moved into a house they owned, this figure was almost double - $11.1m.

The report said these savings took into account the annual cost of supporting people in transitioning across the housing continuum into their own home.

However, it said these estimates were "conservative" and could in reality end up being more.

The Housing Foundation said the research showed actively supporting affordable home ownership for low and middle-income families was beneficial for all.

"Moving people along the housing continuum reduces the long-term liability to the Crown, improves household outcomes, builds communities and is morally and fiscally the right course to take."

A second piece of research, an analysis of international studies carried out by the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, supported Berl's findings.

It found home-ownership was linked to better health, crime and educational outcomes - even once a person's socio-economic status was taken into account - benefits it said could carry on into future generations.

They said the research had not addressed mortgage or rent stress and acknowledged unaffordable housing options of any kind would "almost certainly lead to negative health and social outcomes".

"It [the literature] does suggest though, that social housing policies which enable low-income families affordable mortgage arrangements can be expected to provide greater long-term positive outcomes that are less likely to be found in rental tenure."

Scott Figenshow, chief executive of national organisation Community Housing Aotearoa, said the research showed more needed to be done to reverse the trend of fewer people owning their own homes.

"We will be better off as a country in the long term if we support and assist home ownership and more tenure security in housing for families and individuals."

Earlier this year, new data from Statistics New Zealand showed home ownership was nudging a new low - with the smallest number of Kiwis living in their own home in 66 years.

The Herald has sought comment from the Minister of Housing, Amy Adams, but it wasn't received prior to deadline.

The research reflected in life

Lynette Douglas with her 8 week old son Josiah and husband Scott with their four year old daughter Katelyn outside their Weymouth Home, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Lynette Douglas with her 8 week old son Josiah and husband Scott with their four year old daughter Katelyn outside their Weymouth Home, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

Three years ago Lynette and Scott Douglas' eldest daughter Katelyn was only 2 - but she'd already had four different places to call home.

Her mother, who works part-time in early childhood education, and her father who was a chef, were forced to move each time landlords put up rent beyond what they could afford.

Scott Douglas said because they moved so much they never felt connected to the community they were living in.

"We were never really able to put down any roots so to speak. We didn't really get to know our neighbours like we do here."

Lynette Douglas said it was "quite unsettling" to have to move her daughter so much.

They began contemplating a move out of the city when a friend mentioned the Housing Foundation Development in Waimahia Inlet on the Weymouth Peninsula.

They applied and were accepted for the foundation's affordable equity model, which enabled them to purchase a portion of a 4-bedroom home, on a normal bank mortgage.

They had put in a deposit of $16,000, with help from their KiwiSaver funds, and had mortgage repayments of just over $400 a week - much less than the $500+ they'd been asked to pay in rent.

The remainder was owned by the foundation until the Douglases were in a position to buy it out - which they hoped to be able to do.

Today, with a recent arrival to the family, 8-week-old Josiah, they said life was vastly different from when Katelyn was born.

"It has been amazing as we are in such a supportive community. We have had meals dropped off, offers to help look after my daughter and people saying just to ask for help when we need it."

These sentiments were reflected in the third piece of research released by the foundation which looked at the experiences of those living in the inlet.

The Nexus study, based on data collected from a survey of 86 of the 170 families living in the inlet in November last year. It found most reported a good quality of life as well as improvements in their health and that of their children who therefore did better at school.