Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

TV psychologist Nigel Latta weighs in on Auckland housing crisis

Nigel Latta is poised to launch a new series of The Hard Stuff. Photo / Doug Sherring
Nigel Latta is poised to launch a new series of The Hard Stuff. Photo / Doug Sherring

Nigel Latta believes it'll take decades for New Zealand to dig itself out of a housing crisis driven partly by opportunistic property speculators.

The TV psychologist is poised to launch a new series of The Hard Stuff, tackling hot-button issues including housing, immigration, retirement and the economy.

And in a week when Auckland Council unveiled its blueprint for the city's housing, Latta thinks a radical change in the Kiwi mindset is needed.

"Yes, accommodation is a huge problem in Auckland but housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable all over the country," he said. "It is a big, deep hole we are in and the fix will take decades.

"Self interest is part of the problem. There is nothing wrong with investing in property but some of us are now obsessed with it and we need to stop this.

"Housing is a special kind of investment in that it is human beings who live in it. So if you are going to be an investor in property there is a special responsibility that comes with that."

Latta spent nine months travelling New Zealand filming episodes for his new eight-part series, which starts on TV One next month.

He goes on the streets, down on the farm, into factories, homes and the halls of power to meet the people dealing with the issues facing New Zealanders.

The outspoken clinical psychologist applies his own blend of real-world experience to sort fact from urban myth then decides what we need to do to sort the problem.

In recent times, housing has been a top talking point, with house values in Auckland soaring by 85 per cent since 2012.

The city needs to find room for an extra 1 million people in the next 25 years. Auckland's Unitary Plan aims to achieve a higher quality, compact city with more townhouses, terraced houses and apartments on smaller sections and less urban sprawl in Auckland's rural plan.

But Latta believes we need to go further.

"I spoke to an architect who can design and build very nice four bedroom houses for $120,000 so it is a nonsense to suggest affordable housing isn't realistic," he said. "I also talk to a developer who wants to build affordable three-story houses but can't because of the bureaucracy involved.

"Too many people don't want this type of housing in their back yards because it might affect the price of their own properties.

"But as the retirement population grows we are going to need smaller dwellings. We just don't need a lot of these big houses with multiple bedrooms any more.

"Another thing is, there are some who think young people are too fussy and spend too much money on lattes when they should be saving for a deposit. But you can't save your way through this problem because wages are not keeping pace with rising property prices.

"It is insane to think this is a latte-driven problem."

The Weekend Herald revealed yesterday traders made $1600 a day in property flipping profits, with speculators, investors and homeowners making close to $200 million capital gain in under 18 months. Each sale made an average 19 per cent capital gain.

Latta believes we are so fixated on buying houses we have forgotten about the needs of renters. "Tenants need better rights in order to stay in properties where their kids can attend the same school for the duration of their education without the worry of being kicked out.

"In some places in Europe, people can sign eight-year tenancy agreements."

Latta believed other measures such as a property tax on overseas investors would be beneficial.

"There is no one silver bullet for the housing crisis but a number of measures being introduced at the same time would go a long way towards dramatically improving things.

The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta is at TVNZ OnDemand from August 9 and will screen on TV One later in the month.

What's next

In the second series of TV One's The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta the clinical psychologist will turn the spotlight on topics such as:

• Suicide - loved ones need to know when someone's in trouble.

• The retirement bomb - can we afford to pay super?

• Immigration - our fears over the changing face of our nation.

• Politicians - what do they do?

• The economy - are we victims to forces beyond our control?

• University - the best choice?

- Herald on Sunday

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