In the second part of a three-part series, property editor Anne Gibson asks why house prices are so out of reach - and finds conflicting views. Here are the experts in their own words, plus the views of Herald readers.
Tomorrow: The search for answers
Governor, Reserve Bank
- Blames us all for too much borrowing and spending and not enough saving.
"New Zealand households are unusual in the dependence they have on property assets in their balance sheets. In fact many households hold essentially no other assets. The typical holding of financial assets and equities is very low by OECD standards. The danger of this is it means our love affair with housing leaves us very exposed to a property slump. The housing boom has driven a lot of extra expenditure that typically accompanies new houses: fixtures and fittings, appliances, even cars. In addition, seeing their house value rise over the last five years, many people have felt richer and have spent more on unrelated items - entertainment, travel, etc. The very tight domestic economy largely reflects this."
Critics say: Nobody will take much notice of Dr Bollard's warnings while the financial returns from property remain so good. And his only weapon for forcing them down - higher interest rates - seems to be hurting exporters more than home buyers.
- Blames greedy land speculators and developers.
Mr Carter believes Auckland's growth is partly being strangled by developers who refuse to build on their land and just wait for it to rise in value and deliver them a fortune. "Speculators have been buying up land and sitting on it until prices rise through the roof," he said last week. "This is inhibiting supply and eventually hitting first-time buyers, and it is a problem that needs to be confronted." He also blames developers for almost exclusively building flash new houses in the $500,000 range, out-pricing first-time buyers instead of building affordable housing.
Critics say: The Government has not moved fast or far enough to address the affordability crisis. Its welfare-based approach through state housing and the Welcome Home loan scheme for only 2000 poor first-time buyers are just tiny measures, compared with the scope of the problem.
Business Herald editor
- Blames the lack of a capital gains tax on investment housing.
"This would have several benefits. First, it would encourage Kiwis to consider investing in assets that might create jobs and export income for New Zealand, such as businesses and shares. Buying and selling houses lets real estate agents buy flash European cars but creates few jobs and adds little to the economy. Second, if speculators knew they couldn't just buy a house and flick it on in a year or two for a large tax-free profit, they'd think more carefully about the sort of investments they were making and hold on to them for longer."
Critics say: A capital gains tax did not quench Australia's housing market and will not work here. It could also be political suicide for any government brave enough to even consider the idea.
Director, Centre for Resource Management Studies
- Blames the Auckland Regional Council's smart growth master plan - to keep most housing within tightly defined city limits - which he calls dumb growth.
"The growth management strategy is actually a strategy for crippling the economy. The housing prices just keep inflating, cheered on by those already in the market while new entrants sit on the sidelines in despair. Auckland, like other metropolises, is now decentralising. Aucklanders will move out of the metropolitan area." Mr McShane's argument is supported by Christchurch investor and developer Hugh Pavletich, who blames "nutty" council and Government rules which deliberately restrict land supply for urban development. Only 1.4 per cent of New Zealand's land is urbanised and more land should be freed up, he says. "New affordable housing is not being built because land prices have gone through the roof."
Critics say: Letting Auckland grow even further outwards will mean longer commuting times and higher costs for new services to these homes.
BNZ chief economist
- Cites a combination of high immigration numbers, historically low interest rates and high job security as some of the main reasons for house price rises.
Mr Alexander reckons prices are exactly where the market says they should be and houses are not overpriced. Ten years ago, about 5000 people migrated here annually. But in the past decade, about 10,000 people have arrived here each year, resulting in more pressure going on housing stock. "More people means more demand for houses and in an economy constrained by resources such as carpenters, electricians, plasterers and so on, it is difficult to construct the extra houses being demanded."
Critics say: The economy might be booming and people getting richer but they still cannot afford what they want most - a house.