First-home buyers in the regions are leading the uptake of new subsidies worth up to $20,000 as Aucklanders struggle with ever-increasing house prices.

Close to 7000 applications from first-home buyers have been made for new, larger HomeStart housing subsidies, new figures reveal.

A regional breakdown shows much higher uptake rates outside of Auckland.

There were 207 applications approved in Christchurch to June, with 128 properties bought with the help of the KiwiSaver subsidy.


That compared to 239 approved applications in Auckland, and 142 properties bought. Invercargill had 55 approved applications, and Dunedin had 89.

Hawkes Bay-based Tremains real estate director Simon Tremain said the scheme had been "huge" for his region. The extra government subsidy had enabled first-home buyers to up their price bracket and afford a nice home in a better area.

"For that $300,000 to $350,000 mark you get a good location, you get a three-bedroom home and it will probably be pretty tidy as well."

He expected more first-home buyers to use the scheme to get on the property ladder.

Labour says the figures show that the dream of a first home is out of reach for too many Aucklanders - and the subsidy could be making it even tougher.

Housing and Building Minister Nick Smith said there had been broad pick-up from across New Zealand, and that was welcomed given rates of home ownership for young people had also declined in places like Invercargill. "There have been more grants in Auckland than any other area. But not as big a difference, given the size of Auckland. That doesn't surprise us in that it is a tougher ask to find a property in Auckland under $550,000."

House price limits for the HomeStart grant are $550,000 in Auckland, $450,000 in Wellington and Christchurch, and $350,000 for the rest of the country.

Asked if a change was needed to address the comparatively low uptake in Auckland, Dr Smith said it was too early to tell.


"This is just the first quarter. The vast bulk of the data is around pre-approvals rather than settlements ... we will be having a fresh look at the scheme after we have got a good year of data. At this point we are pretty comfortable as to where it is heading."

HomeStart was expanded from April to give singles or couples on modest incomes grants of between $3000 and $20,000, depending on how long they have contributed to KiwiSaver and whether the house is a new build.

Labour leader Andrew Little said house prices at the lower end of the market in Auckland had eclipsed the subsidies over the same period.

HomeStart applications approved
Auckland 239
Waikato 25
Tauranga 82
Napier 45
Wellington 50
Nelson 56
Christchurch 207
Dunedin 89
Invercargill 55