Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Complaining first home buyers are brats

Is it just me, or is anyone else heartily sick of first-home buyers whingeing about expensive Auckland houses?

I haven't always felt like this. There was a time when they had my sympathy.

When they complained the only suburbs they could afford lay a 1 hour drive from the city, I felt their pain. I did that drive for three years.

When they got angry at a baby boomer Australian newspaper columnist who said they could afford homes if they'd just give up their $22 smashed avocado on toast weekend brunches, I defended them - $22 a week doesn't cover a mortgage.

But now I have a sneaking suspicion the very loudest complainers are actually a bunch of entitled brats.

Yes, we do have a housing problem. The long-awaited government Home Affordability Measure released this week revealed 86 per cent of Auckland first home buyers can't afford a mortgage.

That wasn't a surprise.

What was a surprise in the figures, though, was how long we've had a problem, with hardly anyone complaining.

All the way back in March 2003, 74 per cent of Auckland buyers already couldn't afford a home.

Back then there were a smattering of news stories, and even the odd political speech, but nothing like the noise that you'd expect three-quarters of the city's entry level buyers to make.

Which means that all the noise in recent years has been generated by the 12 per cent of first home buyers cut out of the market since 2003.

I'd hazard a guess that - since houses were still affordable to that cohort until 2003 - they're reasonably well off.

They're probably white-collar workers, probably Pakeha, probably educated, probably millennials or very young Generation X-ers and probably know the right people to get media attention.

Those people are also probably the kind of workers who can take their skills to more affordable cities in the country. They're also probably going to end up able to afford houses once their careers and pay rates move along.

I reckon we should forget that 12 per cent and instead worry about the 75 per cent who quietly came to terms with being unable to buy a house years ago.

Instead of scrambling to build affordable houses for people to buy, we should be building houses for people who will never be able to buy.

Sydney has built more than 800 affordable houses and apartments in the city centre.

To do that, we have to have a grown up conversation about the fact houses in central Auckland will probably - short of a massive economic upset - never be affordable again. They'll never go back to the prices my grandparents paid for their Meadowbank brick and tile in the 70s.

If we accept that, we accept that some people can't live in the city without some form of help. And that includes our essential workers on fixed government incomes: police officers, teachers, nurses.

Sydney's ahead of us on this.

It has already built more than 800 affordable houses and apartments in the city centre for essential workers who would never afford to live in the city otherwise.

The city hasn't paid for it. It has forced wealthy developers to cough up: they either have to donate money or houses every time they build a new development.

Those units are donated to a social housing provider who charges rent the tenant can afford.

It's a smart idea that's getting people who really need housing help closer to their jobs.

It's not pandering to the noisy who probably will be able to buy a house one day.

And it's accepting a fact, which is Auckland is now a global city and first-home buyers should not expect to buy a house within half an hour of the CBD.

- Herald on Sunday

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