Don’t buy coffee and cars if you want a house

April 24, 2007

Articles — Tags: , — admin

A leading property investor has questioned why people on above-average wages cannot afford to buy a home after a report predicted dramatically falling home-ownership rates.

Property Investors Federation vice-president Andrew King said people on $70,000 a year had to look at their other spending – on things like coffee and cars – if they thought they could not afford a house.

“It might not be the house that you want to live in long-term, but you could buy a $350,000 house in Te Atatu, Glenfield, Panmure or Pukekohe,” he said.

“People should spend less money on coffee and brand new cars and overseas trips.

“It’s up to them to save more. This is a culture of ‘I want it now, I want everything and I deserve it’.”

Yesterday, the Government floated the idea of property developers being forced to build low-cost homes in new estates to ease Auckland’s housing shortage.

Housing Minister Chris Carter after two new reports revealed that New Zealand’s most populous region faces a severe housing shortage and must accommodate growing numbers of people who may rent all their lives.

A study on rental housing by Wellington consultants DTZ predicts falling home ownership, a big increase in the number of people renting – particularly young families and the elderly – and a growing demand for rental accommodation.

Even households making $70,000 a year are being locked out of home ownership, the report says.

The city will need almost 55,000 new houses and flats in the next 10 years.

But high development costs are strangling new-house building – a topic the second report examines.

The housing supply report by consultants Motu proposes speeding up resource consent approvals by financially punishing councils for delays. It also suggests abolishing the artificial city limit boundary, freeing new tracts of land for development.

Mr Carter said he had two solutions – a new law that is yet to win support from other politicians, and funding for shared-equity schemes, which he expects to be in next year’s Budget.

The minister wants to force developers to build a proportion of cheap houses in large new Auckland estates. He said the move had succeeded in Australia.

“We would consider a home affordability bill to direct developers to build a certain portion of affordable housing,” he said.

“I’m enthusiastic about this but I need to convince my colleagues.”

He also favoured shared-equity schemes, in which the Government takes a stake in a house to reduce the cost for first-home buyers.

The scheme had been introduced in Britain.

Money for a pilot scheme should be made available in next year’s Budget, Mr Carter said, but numbers were yet to be decided.

He promised to issue a report within six weeks outlining options, and said a new law could be passed next year.

The reports sparked strong reactions from developers and landlord and tenant groups.

Patrick Fontein, an Auckland developer building a $400 million 500-house and apartment project at Orewa, was concerned about Mr Carter’s cheap housing proposals.

Forcing developers to build low-cost houses in new estates was no solution to the affordability crisis, Mr Fontein said.

The move could lower the tone of new estates and force buyers of higher-priced houses to subsidise the cheaper housing.

Mr Fontein said Mr Carter should work out ways to help people into existing homes rather than new housing, which was often out of reach for many first-home buyers.

Angela Maynard, co-ordinator for the Tenants Protection Association in Auckland, called for more quality rental accommodation and better security of tenure.

Landlords should have to get warrants of fitness for their houses or flats before finding tenants, she said, to ensure minimum standards were set.

Landlords should also have to give reasons for eviction, which could be achieved by amending the Residential Tenancies Act.

“At the moment, you can give a tenant 90 days’ notice without a reason,” she said. “We want landlords to give just cause for eviction.”

She said she was not surprised to find that people making up to $70,000 a year were faced with a lifetime of renting, but said the city’s property market was based purely on greed.

“Everyone in the equation is greedy and trying to get more and more,” Ms Maynard said.

The Salvation Army’s director of social policy, Major Campbell Roberts, called for swift Government action, saying very little had been done to alleviate Auckland’s crisis.

The region’s state housing supply was under considerable stress, forcing many people into the private rental market where rents had risen in the last year, Major Roberts said.

He urged a wide-sweeping range of solutions, including more state housing and more care and professionalism from private landlords.

“Mom and pop investors are not in the rental market primarily to provide accommodation,” he said. “They are there for investment and superannuation purposes, so if another type of investment comes along, they shift their money. They don’t care about the tenant.”

Hugh Pavletich, a Christchurch developer and investor and co-author of the Demographic housing affordability report, welcomed the Motu report in particular, saying its recommendations had stunned him because they were so radical.

The recommendations went much further than he had expected, he said, advocating freeing of Auckland land for housing – necessary to start solving the city’s housing crisis – and punishing councils for lengthy resource consent delays.

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