Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

New-home builds on hold

While house-price inflation is mainly an Auckland and Christchurch problem, the Reserve Bank policy has affected building plans around the country.
While house-price inflation is mainly an Auckland and Christchurch problem, the Reserve Bank policy has affected building plans around the country.

One of New Zealand's largest home builders says new loan restrictions have cost it 24 new-home builds in the first month alone - and it expects more as the policy bites.

Kiwis desperate to get onto the housing ladder are bearing the brunt of the Reserve Bank's restrictions.

GJ Gardner's 27 franchises built 700 homes last year and expect to build 950 this year.

But 11 franchisees have confirmed they lost a total of 24 deals as a direct result of the restrictions.

Master Builders Federation chief Warwick Quinn warns that is likely to be the tip of the iceberg; other building firms are beginning to report the same issues.

While house-price inflation is mainly an Auckland and Christchurch problem, the Reserve Bank policy has affected building plans around the country.

Mr Quinn said his federation would discuss with the bank any measures that could be introduced so the supply of homes was not affected.

"If there's anything they can do to avoid the impact on supply of houses that's not going to be detrimental to the overall policy, we want them to look at that."

The results of talks with builders over the past week were consistent with the federation's own estimate that 15 per cent of new builds, or about 3000 homes, could be affected in the first year.

However, the federation was also worried about "a large, unknown" number of buyers with deposits of 20 to 30 per cent who would decide against building for fear of unexpected construction costs requiring a top-up loan that would take them over the loan-to-value ratio limit.

In Wanganui, franchise holder Alex Sigley said the loan restrictions had directly cost him three contracts.

"There hasn't been a single new first-home buyer come through the doors in two months now. Before, we would see three to four each month."

Mr Sigley said while the policy appeared to hitting first-home buyers hardest, "it has a flow on to the others who would be in the market".

Matt Lelean of the Rodney franchise said clients on the verge of signing were taking a wait-and-see approach. "For past three months, we have averaged 15 sales per month. However, in October, we are sitting on eight accepted jobs ... "

In Nelson, franchise holder Glen Jarvie reported a fall in new inquiries of about 50 per cent in three months.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said it was too early to have firm data on the impact of the loan restrictions on new builds - but he regarded commentary from the building industry with "a little bit of healthy scepticism".

"They would prefer that there was very easy credit in exactly the same way as in the US the building industry loved the building boom in the heady days and had no responsibility when it all turned to custard and you had millions of Americans left with mortgages in excess of the value of their properties."

However, he noted that Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler had said he was open minded about some refinement in the policy if it was shown that the loan limits were affecting new residential investment.

Labour Party housing spokesman Phil Twyford said that if the federation was right about the extent of the impact, "that would put a serious dent in the Government's efforts to increase the supply of housing and would mean the lending limits would be undermining the centrepiece of the Government's housing policy".

- NZ Herald

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