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Auckland is the battlefront for the current housing explosionGareth Morgan

Those with means should buy ‘multiple houses’

Auckland is the battlefront for the current housing explosion

Auckland is the battlefront for the current housing explosion

Auckland’s property-market circus a golden opportunity for speculators as home buyers feel the squeeze.

We all know Auckland is the battlefront for the current housing explosion.

What perhaps we don’t all appreciate is the forces at work.

In yesterday’s article I laid out the chronic disease in our housing market and laid the blame for that long-set problem squarely on the doorstep of both the Reserve Bank’s direction to commercial banks to lend on mortgages until they’re giddy, and the politicians who can but won’t remove the tax break for housing – their personal survival as politicians being far more important than doing the right thing by the country.

But nowhere is the housing circus more entertaining to watch than in Auckland, our largest city and the giant sucking machine that’s pulling more and more New Zealanders north of the Bombay Hills as the jobs are there or nowhere.

Akin to a Manchester or Sheffield of the South Pacific this factory city is press-ganging employees into its factories and stacks of office blocks and condemning them to endless hours of commuting to those sweatshops.

With Christchurch pretty much paralysed, Wellington directionless, Auckland is the land of milk and honey for those in pursuit of a regular pay-cheque.

This is the contemporary New Zealand working class – competing for wages with those in India, China and the juggernaut that is the world’s developing economy workforce. For these folks it’s Auckland or the dole.

But it’s worse than that. We have a huge distortion in our housing market, a legacy of extremely poor policy management since financial deregulation 30 years ago.

It has resulted in the price of our accommodation becoming one of the highest in the world – at least in relation to the incomes we earn.

And that distortion is concentrated more and more in one location in New Zealand – Auckland.

Not all those sucked into this vortex of economic survival can live in Herne Bay, St Heliers, Takapuna or Remuera. At least not in a house – a shoebox in those locations is looking more and more inevitable.

But in general the workers forced to Auckland are signing up to a daily life of motorway gridlock.

Enter the opportunists. So long as we continue with the economic policy mis-management of the type we’ve had since 1984, we will continue to have spiralling house prices and New Zealanders wanting to own their own home will find it more and more elusive.

This is a certainty. So from an investor’s perspective this is a golden opportunity.

If the market distortion is going to persist then those with the means should be buying multiple houses, they can’t do anything but go up in value.

It’s been true for so long now that many New Zealanders know this. And those with the wherewithal continue to buy houses – and many of them.

Sometimes we gear-up but our appetite for multiple houses isn’t fully dependent on the supply of credit – not as much as it is for those desperate to start on the property-owning path.

And so long as those desperadoes are in the market, forced to Auckland because of the job market and desperate and able to buy, courtesy of large dollops of credit courtesy of their banks, then it’s like babies to the slaughter insofar as an investor or property speculator is concerned.

I’ll have five houses please – it’s a certainty prices will rise, profits are all tax free, gearing available to amplify my gains – oh it’s all too much, why bother with the day job. And the more the merrier, this bubble is so much fun.

So with immigrants and investors swarming to Auckland from parts of the world where property speculation is rife, the recipe is set for a party. Apparently Asians are 40 per cent of buyers in Auckland and all buying three or more houses.

What can the Government do, even if it had the spine to intervene?

The Reserve Bank’s risk-weighting on mortgages and the politicians’ tax loophole are at the heart of the toxicity homebuyers are facing.

Fix those factors first. Thereafter the issue for the Government is to what extent is it willing to subsidise growth being Auckland-centric?

By letting the roads choke even more, forcing the residents into shoebox high-density living, Auckland as the nirvana of well-being will soon despoil.

But the Government is desperate to solve that natural consequence of agglomeration. If it succeeds the urban drift will accelerate and the quality of life in Auckland will be squeezed.

  • Tim

    I think you have confused yourself about roads choking. Roads choke because there are too many drivers on the road. There are too many drivers on the road because we have vast low density suburbs with inhabitants all wanting to drive to the city centre.
    Dense central city living such as seen in most modern cities leads to better infrastructure, less reliance on the motor car and better public transport. All of which would lead to a much better and vibrant city.

    • wikiriwhi

      Obviously the projected rise of fuel is going to change all that. Dispossession is the spreading disease and roading is a white elephant and total waste of funding

  • Louis

    I agree with Tim. High density living is the way to go. You assume that people all want big back yards. I want a nice small dwelling. More terraces and apartment buildings with decent public transport links.

    As for dealing with the tax system – that’s something I definitely agree on.

  • Michael Adams

    Why not take the emphasis off growth? Would that not solve the issues of ghetto creation and increased crime that will result from the shoebox living style?

  • Casper NZ

    The GM tax may be a longer term solution but would need a massive education program.
    Solving the immediate Auckland problem could be started by simply stopping deduction of interest against residential property.
    That would not penalize any investor landlord who owns the property outright from a reasonable yield while releasing on to the market many geared renters and putting them on the same level as the private owner occupier.
    If as the result of this property prices fell by a margin, the corresponding yield on new investments would rise accordingly.