Yesterday we discovered that the eighth most expensive city for housing in the world is Tauranga, where it takes more than nine times the median annual income to buy the median house. We also heard that Auckland was not too far behind. The lowest was Manawatu where the ration was five.
Now, by the way, it was not widely reported that using the demographic rating system it is believed that the affordable level is three times and under. Anything over five they class as severely unaffordable. Just about everywhere in this beautiful country is severely unaffordable.
So the headlines were full of New Zealand’s housing affordability crisis.
And then just like that, as I left the studio, I discovered that an Auckland councillor had come into our building and dropped off a copy of his book to every on-air staff member.
The councillor’s name is Greg Sayers and his book is called "How to Fix Auckland’s Housing Crisis". But the problems he documents are spreading so I’d rename it New Zealand’s Housing crisis if you’re doing a reprint.
It’s a pretty good read actually. In 166 pages it highlights the problems that have been caused by population growth, both natural and immigrated. The lack of foresight with planning and the excessive bureaucracy at both national and local level, that has made things so expensive. It also documents the social problems that come with it in terms of poverty, the elderly and the transport problems.
But I think we’ve all become pretty good at talking about the problems. What we really need is a genius with some answers.
So Greg’s book has four solutions in its conclusion. He wants homebuyers to be able to insure their property against poor workmanship. Which makes sense. At the moment the cautiousness of our councils over standards and consents is because they hold all the risk management.
He would like to see developers given the option of developing their own infrastructure, rather than having to connect to the Council’s monopoly on services. In other words, deregulation. Whether that would create a workable citywide system is a little debatable and the other issue is whether you trust developers. Nothing personal but some developers might have been known, from time to time, to shave a little off budgets to help their margins.
He’d like to see user pays infrastructure development such as at the Milldale suburb where homeowners pay a little off yearly for infrastructure to new builds rather than having it all piled onto initial purchase price. That’s a good idea. So good it’s already happening.
But his main thing is getting rid of the rural-urban boundary. And that’s where he loses me. I’ve heard this trumpeted through the ages.
That would make for sprawling raggedy development. Yes, it would give some short term relief but it would create long term problems. In fact, I’d argue that the transport problems we have in a number of our cities is entirely because of unfettered sprawl at the edges.
But good on Greg for raising the issues again. Councils have taken advantage of Phil Twyford’s desire to solve our housing woes singlehandedly and debates about their performance has ebbed away. The one thing I definitely know about our housing affordability crisis is that not one person caused it and not one person will solve it.