Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Rise of the home renters

Figures show habits changing with less than 50% owning.

North Shore resident Sue Barr has little chance of buying her own home. Photo / Brett Phibb
North Shore resident Sue Barr has little chance of buying her own home. Photo / Brett Phibb

We're increasingly becoming a nation of renters with less than half of us now owning our own place, Census data shows.

The figures, released yesterday, show 50.2 per cent of us did not own a home during the last Census.

"In 2013, 49.8 per cent of people aged 15 years and over owned or partly owned the home they lived in, compared with 53.2 per cent in 2006," said Census general manager Gareth Meec.

Gisborne has the lowest rate of home ownership, followed by Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Wellington.

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub said house prices in Auckland were rising rapidly so the ownership figures weren't surprising. And Gisborne was at the top of the list because incomes were low.

Mr Eaqub is an outspoken advocate against the Kiwi home ownership obsession and recommends renting. Instead of paying a mortgage, he and wife Selena rent in Wellington and invest their money, a scheme he says returns far more in the long run than buying a house.

Renters avoided costs such as interest payments and maintenance.

Green Party housing spokeswoman Holly Walker said more Kiwi families were being locked out of the housing market and facing rapidly rising rents.

But Andrew King, NZ Property Investors Federation executive officer, said most tenants were getting a far better deal than mortgage holders.

Results of a federation study carried out in December comparing the cost of buying to renting a home found that it was $138 a week cheaper to rent, he said. Rising mortgage interest rates would make renting more advantageous, Mr King said.

From September 1 to the end of last month, the medium rental for a three bedroom house throughout the country was $350 a week, he said.

Auckland mayor Len Brown said from July to February, 24,089 resource consents applications were received to build new apartments, townhouses or houses. About 11,600 were approved and the remaining 12,500 were in progress and the council had successfully implemented a fast-track consent processing system, he said. The city's new Special Housing Areas had also seen 22 big new estates approved, creating thousands of new houses.

A Tenants Protection Association representative in Christchurch said the organisation's workloads were rising as more people rented. The association provides information and advice about renters' rights and obligations.

Trade Me was showing 3749 Auckland places to rent yesterday.

Tenant calls for better KiwiSaver flexibility

Renter Sue Barr has been forced to move her family five times in the past six years, but owning her own home is beyond her reach.

The single mother lives in a three-bedroom home in Mairangi Bay on Auckland's North Shore with her two daughters - Holly, 13, and Chelsea, 10.

She has lived in the same house for three years and the rent - $535 a week - is more than the cost of servicing a mortgage of her own.

But the 50-year-old accounts manager does not have any savings for a deposit and, like first-home buyers, she cannot use her KiwiSaver funds because she has twice owned homes in a past marriage. She has $12,000 in the fund.

The family have moved several times in the past few years because owners have sold the homes or wanted to move in themselves.

Ms Barr said the rules around KiwiSaver should be more flexible for those wanting to use their savings to buy a home.

"I'm saving the money to benefit myself and my children and to stop this whole renting business," Ms Barr said.

"It's not like I'm wanting to pull it all out and go on a holiday or something.

"Even though it is for my retirement, at that point in time I could sell the house and downsize and still have money left over. I just don't think the bigger picture is being looked at."

Ms Barr works on the North Shore, and both her children attend school there, so she does not want to move away from the area.

"I would love to own my own home. One, for the security, and then also so when I pass on I have something for my children."

- Ben Irwin

- NZ Herald

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