So here we are. Brand new year. Brand new decade. Same old topics of conversation.
No matter what happens you can always get a Kiwi talking by mentioning either the weather or housing. And housing is buzzing with stories again.
Earlier in the week I saw a story showing that Dunedin house prices were on a rampage up over 15 per cent. Apparently with the Christchurch rebuild slowing some people are jumping south for work and lower house prices.
Wellington has had its housing headlines too. The rental market is extremely tight and everyone is concerned. I know this as my youngest has been looking for a flat there.
Last night the television news talked about an apartment project by the Wellington project to create cheap inner city housing. They’re modifying 3 office blocks into apartments which they lease to council to distribute to people with the most need, whether they be essential minimum wage city workers or young families or social housing. It’s a form of rent control that’s been in New York and other cities forever.
There were also stories about Housing For Humanity in Invercargill as the social housing crisis grows there just as it’s growing everywhere. In Rotorua the biggest market for the motel industry is emergency housing for the MSD. The government’s spending 10s of millions on Rotorua motels each year as the Air BnB market takes rentals off the market.
There are continual articles about the growth in waiting lists for social and state housing. National says it’s because the government is failing to address poverty. Some say it’s the legacy of neo-liberal economics which has created an underclass. Others say that it’s because this government says fluffy words about growing state housing. The promise of more social housing is a driver to get on the waiting lists just in case. It’s probably a bit of all that.
Meanwhile this mornings paper had an article on 5 things you need to know about the housing market in 2020. Apparently its still bubbling away despite some forecasts last year that it might be soft in 2020.
Westpac is guessing the Auckland market will rise by 5 per cent this year while national prices will grow even more. Colliers polled 4500 people and for the first time in 2 years respondents thought prices would go up in every region.
Another headline this week was that building consents are at their highest level since the 70s. The growth graph is quite remarkably steep. The interesting thing is that it started really rising 3 to 4 years ago before this so called housing crisis began.
So housing will continue to be our national conversation. But I would like to note that the conversation is calmer now.
While concerns will continue to be voiced at our level of homelessness and the pressures on our poorest in finding a roof, the hysteria of the housing crisis of 3 years ago has reduced. Partly because of government measures that prevent the excesses of investors both foreign and local. But mostly because the market is doing what markets do and that is responding to needs. There is a rise in low cost alternatives near transport hubs. NGOs are responding with social housing.
Which is important to remember in an election year when politicians will come at you with hare-brained schemes instead of relying on New Zealanders to house themselves.