Tamsyn Parker

Money Editor for NZ Herald

Thousands use scheme to get a foot in the door

Big-city prices mean the first-home deposit subsidy has been of limited use to buyers in the main centres. Photo / Neville Marriner
Big-city prices mean the first-home deposit subsidy has been of limited use to buyers in the main centres. Photo / Neville Marriner

It's less than two years since KiwiSaver members became eligible to withdraw their savings to help buy their first home, but already more than 7400 have taken that option to become property-owners.

However takeup of the additional deposit subsidy, provided by Housing New Zealand, has proven of limited use to big-city buyers.

KiwiSavers become eligible to withdraw both their own contributions and their employer's contributions once they have been in the scheme for three years.

In addition, those who meet certain requirements are eligible for a deposit subsidy, starting at $3000 per person and increasing to $4000 once they have been in KiwiSaver for four years, and $5000 after five years.

The eight largest KiwiSaver providers report that 7440 members have withdrawn money to buy a home since the option became available in July 2010.

Figures from the Financial Markets Authority show that in the first nine months $12.3 million was withdrawn from the scheme for home purchases, with the average withdrawal being $9640.

Fewer people have been able to get access to the Housing NZ subsidy, and regional data show it is mainly people living outside the main centres who have taken advantage of it.

Of the total 3653 deposit subsidy approvals, just 423 have been made in Auckland, the country's costliest housing market. Wellington fared even worse, with 71 approvals, while there were 172 approvals in Christchurch.

To be eligible, savers need to be over 18 and be buying their first home, or in a position similar to that of a first-home buyer.

If there are one or two borrowers they must have earned $100,000 or less in the past 12 months, and $140,000 or less for three borrowers.

They must also have made at least the minimum contribution to KiwiSaver for three years or more.

The subsidy can only be used to buy homes below a certain price: $400,000 for Auckland City, Wellington City and the Queenstown Lakes District, $300,000 in all other areas.

Despite the failure to capture first-home buyers in the major cities, take-up of the subsidy has exceeded expectations - although the bar was set pretty low.

Initial forecasts were for up to 700 subsidies in the first year, and a further 1000 in the second year.

First Home Withdrawals*
ANZ: 1864
ASB: 1515
Westpac: 1189
AMP: 940
AXA: 542
Tower: 527
Kiwibank: 436
Mercer: 429
* Since July 2010

- NZ Herald

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