A Christchurch man is struggling to get on the housing ladder because New Zealand's banks don't offer sharia-compliant loans.

Hisham El Zeiny has lived in New Zealand for 21 years but is unable to buy his own home, partly because paying or receiving interest is forbidden in Islam and the country's banks don't offer alternative finance options.

The 66-year-old, a former imam of the El Noor Mosque who now works as a cooking and Arabic tutor, said Muslims view the process of making money through lending as "usury".

Without easy access to alternatives from traditional interest-earning mortgages, Muslims are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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"In a way it stops you from growing your roots in New Zealand because you feel like you're still there on a temporary basis," El Zeiny said. "But if you [had] your own house and your nationality, you feel as though you really belong."

According to the 2018 census, there are over 60,000 Muslims in the country, and with most Western countries offering sharia-compliant mortgage options, Kiwi Muslims feel let down by the lack of accommodating banking infrastructure.

IT worker Ilyas Ahmed said he had also struggled to get into New Zealand's housing market because of a lack of Sharia-compliant finance options.

"I would really like to buy a home for my family as much as anyone else, but there are no options available in New Zealand that would enable me to achieve that," he said. "I have been renting for the last 15 years and have used my savings to buy land back home as there are interest-free options available there."

The mens' stories aren't unique, and despite our increasingly diverse nation, sharia-compliant banking doesn't appear to be on the cards for New Zealand account holders.

Hisham El Zeiny has lived in New Zealand for 21 years but is unable to buy his own home, partly because the country's banks don't offer alternative finance options.
Hisham El Zeiny has lived in New Zealand for 21 years but is unable to buy his own home, partly because the country's banks don't offer alternative finance options.

A New Zealand Bankers' Association spokesperson said banks were constantly responding to customer preferences but they weren't seeing "that kind of demand" for sharia-compliant loans.

Islamic scholar and Avondale Islamic Centre Imam, Muhammed Shaakir Ismail, said the lack of viable alternatives had driven most of his members to take on conventional finance, which was effectively un-Islamic.

"It's a theme that comes up often unfortunately, it's a great challenge for Muslims," Ismail said.

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Amanah Ethical is the only sharia-compliant KiwiSaver and investment scheme in the country, however they do not offer mortgages.

Managing director Brian Henry said the group would like to have an Islamic mortgage option within 10 years although this would require major investors and would cost in the order of a billion dollars to start up.

Banks in New Zealand aren't openly entertaining the idea of offering sharia-finance, however, Kiwibank said they had looked into what was required to offer the home loans, however they were unable to provide them at this time.

The Reserve Bank said although it doesn't have a system-wide view of all products, they were not aware of any sharia-compliant banking product being offered in New Zealand and it was up to individual banks to decide what services they offered clients.

New Zealand is lagging behind Australia when it comes to offering the inclusive banking option.

In Australia, there are several home loan institutions offering compliant finance, such as lease-to-own transactions, where banks purchase the house and sell it to the buyer at a higher price.

With rents rising across the nation and competition only heating up in the housing market, the clock is ticking for Muslims in New Zealand who are waiting for a 'Halal' (not forbidden) banking service.