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Affordable – in your dreams

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, June 15th, 2015 - 69 comments
Categories: housing - Tags: , ,

Nick Smith, who Duncan Garner astutely characterised as “the cold-hearted politician”, is at it again:

Nick Smith defends ‘affordable’ homes

The Building and Housing Minister is defending the use of the word “affordable” for around 200 new Auckland homes. Nick Smith has announced a third of the 1000 apartments and townhouses being fast-tracked in the suburb of Hobsonville will be affordably priced. However, that price bracket has now ballooned from $485,000 to $550,000.

Mr Smith told TVNZ’s Q&A programme the properties are within reach. “If you’re on an average income in Auckland, and you’re a member of KiwiSaver for five years, you would have built up $35,000. The Government’s home start scheme gives you $20,000, that means you’ve got $55,000,” he says. “The Government’s welcome home loan scheme means they only need a 10 percent deposit.”

300 odd units “affordable” units will not even scratch the Auckland housing crisis, but never mind that. Those prices are not affordable to the average Kiwi. Let’s assume Smith’s best case, a deposit of $55,000 and a purchase price of $485,000. That’s a mortgage of $430,000.

The median income of an employed person is $863 after tax (median is more useful than mean which is inflated by huge top-end salaries). That’s $1,726 a fortnight.

Using the Sorted mortgage calculator a mortgage of $430,000 at 6% over a 30 year term has fortnightly payments of $1,189. That leaves $537 a fortnight, or $268.50 a week to live on. In this scenario mortgage repayments are 69% of net income. A figure of 40% is sometimes considered affordable in NZ, that’s high by international standards.

You can find a similar set of calculations by 3 News here.

Nick Smith reckons houses are affordable if they are “affordable to someone”. But even under the best assumptions an average house in NZ or one of Smith’s “affordable” houses in Auckland is not remotely affordable for the average paid worker. It takes more than one median income (secure for the next 30 years yeah right) to buy a house.

69 comments on “Affordable – in your dreams ”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Nick Smith belongs in front of a judge and jury articulating his feeble and self-serving defence to charges of human rights violations.

    • Brutus Iscariot 1.1

      You forgot to put in your usual spiel about Section 46 of the Crimes Act.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1

        I’m curious as to where you draw the line. Are you ok with Australia sending people to death camps, for example, or is that a step too far?

        Is there any human right that the National Party must respect, in your view?

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    At least he’s been forced to suppress his urge to sell land he doesn’t own.

  3. vto 3

    The elephant in the room is the bank debt that has snuck so sneakily into our system that we think it is somehow normal..

    Ask yourself where our system would be if that disappeared in a puff…

    partake at your peril

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      We don’t have to ask ourselves – we can look at similar situations from history.

      • vto 3.1.1

        That’s right. It is surprising how willing people are to turn a blind eye to history and reality…. greeeeed – always the downfall.

        The banks rub their hands in glee in so-called boom times like this as they incrementally claw more money out of the people’s pockets and into their shareholders hands…

    • AsleepWhileWalking 3.2

      The confluence of potential black swans this year means a systemic issue sooner rather than later, and there are more swans landing on the lake every day.

  4. Charles 4

    Hobsonville wasn’t ever going to be the new Massey (it’s close, much less well heeled, suburban neighbour) of West Auckland. It never was, not even in 1990. So the idea that any government like a right wing government was going to build anything like “affordable”/egalitarian housing near there is a joke. Take a drive out to Westgate on the weekend, and have look. You’ll need to drive, because public… oops, I mean commuter transport… runs on retail peak hours. Who’s missing from the “affordable” picture Hmmm? It’s pretty “white”, and able-bodied, much like the Nth Shore – minus “Asian” people. How many of the affordable new houses are being built for wheelchair access?

    Last time I looked at the figures, Massey has the highest unemployment in West Auckland, the ethnic distibution is wide, the West in general fares badly, second only to South Auckland.*

    So the “average wage” as referred to in the statistics NZ site link above says $991 from wages or salary. 42.5% of Maori* in Auckland earn $20k per year or less. How’s those Treaty Obligations going for you, National? Not very close to $991pw, in fact, to rent a place in the West if you have a family, both parents would have to be working, or having their costs subsidised, at that income level. Not many extras are affordable.

    The point is these new houses aren’t for the “average” person.

    *I hate having to quote these rudimentary figures and facts because it gives the impression, by middle-class “lifestyle at all costs” standards, that poor people are deadbeats, Maori are “inherently poor”, and that the unemployed are criminals/worthless/on-the-out; and by comparison, all the whiter/wealthier shades in the West are evil overlords. The suggestion does not bear-up to the personal experience, that whenever I come into contact with people from the South or the West, they are the some of best people Auckland have to offer. Of course, I don’t voluntarily frequent the criminal set, so make of anecdote what you will.

  5. Liam 5

    What’s the average (median) income for an Aucklander though? That would be a better measure to the national median.

    • lprent 5.1

      Probably way less than you think. A cursory look at the stats http://stats.govt.nz/Census/2006CensusHomePage/QuickStats/AboutAPlace/SnapShot.aspx?type=ta&ParentID=1000002&tab=Income&id=2000007

      For people aged 15 years and over, the median income (half earn more, and half less, than this amount) in Auckland City is $28,100. This compares with a median of $24,400 for all of New Zealand.
      40.2 percent of people aged 15 years and over in Auckland City have an annual income of $20,000 or less, compared with 43.2 percent of people for New Zealand as a whole.
      In Auckland City, 25.2 percent of people aged 15 years and over have an annual income of more than $50,000, compared with 18.0 percent of people throughout New Zealand.

      • Phil 5.1.1

        That’s not the right metric either.

        Any calculation of home loan affordability will be based on household income, not an individual’s income.

        According to this article, the median Auckland household income is $76,500.

        I don’t have time right now to look into the nitty-gritty of where all these numbers come from and how they’re being presented, but your $28.1k for individual income seems quite low by comparison.

        • lprent

          The stats I was quoting are for everyone over the age of 15.

          People in work would be my bet for the difference. Once you drop out the enormous block of pensioners you get a big jump in median income values. You then get small shifts as you drop out other non-working groups.

          Typical news article – no links and not enough data to find out the source.

          • RRM

            Should 15, 16 and 17-year-olds be able to afford mortgage repayments?

            There must be tens of thousands of kids in that age group in Auckland doing a few hours a week after school, and a full shift at the weekend, all at minimum wage.

            OF COURSE the median wage is going to be far too low to make mortgage repayments, if you take a median wage calculated including those kids.

            I wonder what the median income of 25 – 35 year-olds in Auckland is?

            Double that, and THEN you’ve got an accurate estimate of the house-buying power of first-home buying couples in Auckland.

            Anything else is just choosing figures to support an agenda…

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              You should tell Nick Smith to calm down. Why is he wasting all this time (not to mention your hard-earned taxes) on a problem you’re in denial of?

            • lprent

              Not really. If you actually read my comment rather than immediately polestroking your outrage….

              1. I said that it was the first accurate thing I laid my hands on with median incomes. Cursory means that to me. A dictionary could have told you that.
              2. The fact that the link for incomes says that it was quick stats.

              So when you have cleaned your hands, how about doing something useful rather than whining that someone else did some useful work. Don’t wonder – do some work for a change

              Dig up some more detailed median income stats by region and work status. It will still show that in Auckland that Nick Smith is just a liar with numbers…

              This effort may help to allay the impression that you can’t do anything else with your hands than soft soap Smith…

  6. Janice 6

    How “affordable” is about 2,000 extra vehicles daily on the already overloaded North Western Motorway?

    • maui 6.1

      Not affordable in terms of the time wasted commuting and the loss of productivity, let alone the climate.

  7. saveNZ 7

    Someone is dreaming if they think that $550k is affordable for someone on average local wages.

    I would think more like $350k is what is affordable.

    A few years ago you could get a lot of family houses for that price around Auckland.

    The measures trickling in, should have been put in, 5 years ago.

    Quite a few renovated houses now entering the market, with “change of mind” as the catch phrase, as they were purchased months ago and now on for hundreds of thousands more.

    Agree with the transport issues, especially on the Western Motorway. Unbelievable they are putting up these housing estates, spending millions on the motorway while blocking public transport on that route.

    Ideology gone insane.

    • infused 7.1

      Still many houses that price around… just need to… wait for it…

      move out of Auckland

      • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1

        Yes, of course, only highly waged people should live in Auckland. What a great idea.

        • Capn Insano

          I was going to say something about wanting to stick around friends/family and not having to uproot and find a new job etc but that response is straight to the point.

        • Dave

          People moving out of Auckland and stimulating the regions is a good idea and something that should have incentives, but it needs to be a wide cross section of the earning population, not like infused thinks, that Auckland should be a nice big gated community that’ll open the gates in the morning to let the poor brown people in to clean up.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Oh. I thought they meant that all the low-waged workers would be getting massive pay rises. I suppose you’re probably right, though 😉

      • Tracey 7.1.2

        can you name the banks that will lend to people outside Auckland without jobs?

        • You_Fool

          or name the government schemes to stimulate job creation outside auckland / incentivise people to move to the regions? Additional cash payment, bigger kiwisaver contribution for first home buying? Business tax credits for operating outside auckland? Not closing down governmental services in the regions?

          • Tracey

            Exactly, can name the schemes which moved to regions and a re now being moved to Auckland. The cat seems to have the tongue of our clever friend above.

      • dv 7.1.3

        SoInfused who are going to do all the low paid jobs eg- cleaning, rest homes,

  8. This is an excellent response to Aussie Treasurer Joe Hockey, who said that “If you’ve got a good job and it pays good money and you have security in relation to that job, then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money and that’s readily affordable.”


    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      “I’m just very tired of politicians making really uneducated and quite insulting comments targeted at average Australians,” she said.

      “They’re uninformed about what it’s like to be an average Australian.”

      And that pretty much applies to NZ politicians as well.

  9. dv 9

    AND over the 30 years the bank gets about half a million in interest!!!!

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      And that’s the true kicker right there. The usury of the banking system.

  10. Lanthanide 10

    Small quibble, in that Smith’s figures are for a *couple* earning the average *household* income. Requiring both partners to be working and between them earning the average household income, *both* in Kiwisaver for 5 years. There will be an awful lot of families that simply don’t meet those hurdles.

    • r0b 10.1

      Thanks for that clarification – it wasn’t obvious from the summary I was working from.

    • Capn Insano 10.2

      good point. I remember that Nick Smith twatted on recently about the ‘average’ couple being on 50k each. Aside from, again, the nonsense about using average figures he also makes the assumption that both partners would be earning that much, isn’t a difference much more likely?

      • Lanthanide 10.2.1

        I’d say the majority of male-female married couples in their 30s have children, or are just about to have children. These are the people that make up the bulk of the first-time home buyer demographic.

        In many of these families, one of the pair will be working part-time so that they can be around for their children. This instantly means they’re highly unlikely to be making the $50k average which is based on a full-time wage.

  11. Kiwiri 11

    *Brilliant* arms-length, or rather dead whole body-length, distance from the PM:

    “Prime Minister John Key said he had not seen the plans …”


    (from the link as pointed out, i.e. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/68753453e/housing-minister-nick-smith-all-houses-are-affordable-to-someone)

    How many more of these eye-rollingly awful excuses has the PM got in his bag of lousy tricks?

  12. DH 12

    Note there that Smith is talking about average incomes versus lowest prices. His own argument says that people earning below average can’t buy a house and since the average is above the median he’s admitting over half of Aucklanders can’t buy a house.

    Btw Anthony your link says $991 is before tax and it’s also the average rather than the median.

    Median weekly income from wages and salaries is $863 and with straight tax that’s $730 per week. After paying $594 on the mortgage they’d have $136 left…. about enough to pay rates & insurance.

    The welcome home scheme is a farce btw. I sat in on an application for a mortgage and the bank (Westpac) wouldn’t lend on a 10% deposit to someone who qualified for it. They’d lend on 20% but 10%…. nope not even for a smaller mortgage.

    • r0b 12.1

      Thanks for picking that up (me squinting at the wrong row of the table too late at night!). Fixed the figures in the post.

    • Lanthanide 12.2

      “The welcome home scheme is a farce btw. I sat in on an application for a mortgage and the bank (Westpac) wouldn’t lend on a 10% deposit to someone who qualified for it. They’d lend on 20% but 10%…. nope not even for a smaller mortgage.”

      It’s a scheme, not a guarantee.

      I expect the banks are perfectly fine with 10% deposits in Auckland, since values are going up so quickly. But in flat markets, probably 10% is just too risky for them. This makes further sense if you consider Auckland is where people are going to have the hardest time saving a deposit, so even getting to 10% is a big achievement, but managing 10% elsewhere in the country may just be seen as “someone who can’t be bothered / lives a lavish lifestyle”. Of course I don’t know the area you’re talking about that Westpac wouldn’t lend, but I do suspect it wasn’t Auckland.

      • RRM 12.2.1

        We had no problem obtaining a 90% mortgage in Wellington 2.5 years ago!

        We just re-fixed for 2 more years, current bank has upped our property value such that in theory we have 20% equity now. Bank “B” which we also considered were happy to take us in the basis of about 14% equity.

      • DH 12.2.2

        Y’know it doesn’t take much to Google “Welcome Home Scheme NZ” before commenting on it.



        • Lanthanide

          Not sure what your point is:
          “You will need to meet the lender’s specific lending criteria.”

          Quite clearly, it is a scheme, not a guarantee.

          • DH

            I’m not sure what your point is. I said in clearly legible typeface it was a scheme, I made no comments about a guarantee, so I don’t know what you’re babbling about.

            It’s a farce because a scheme that doesn’t deliver what was expressed or intended is a waste of time and misleading to boot.

            • Lanthanide

              “It’s a farce because a scheme that doesn’t deliver what was expressed or intended is a waste of time and misleading to boot.”

              So you are saying that 0 people have successfully used the scheme to purchase a house?

              Or are you saying that it’s worthless just because the people *you* know couldn’t use it? Pretty small worldview you have there.

  13. Molly 13

    Mentioned this as a possible innovation before, but remains relevant to conversations about the provision of housing for NZers going into the future.

    An alternative to selling off state homes to private developers.

    Develop enclaves of mixed housing, on current HNZ land. For a brief look at how well designed medium-high density can be achieved, have a look at some of the cohousing developments have taken place in Australia.

    Mixed refers to the development outcomes rather than density, ie. number of houses sold, the number retained by the state for HNZ rentals, and the number privately rented by the cohousing trust. Some of those houses sold can be at market rent, others could be at a perpetual reduced cost – ie. if they are bought at 80% market value, then the buyer can only ask that as a maximum when they decide to sell. Unit titles can be used for this, with individual ownership of unit titles including a share in the unit title for common areas.

    This approach encourages a mixture of economic and social types to live together. In practice, this improves the long-term outcome and connectiveness of the community – as observations in Denmark testify.

    Ensure that the majority of the community is owned by those that live there, ie. Only up to 49% is retained by HNZ, or have a proviso that decisions that impact on the community need to be supported by a 70-80%.

    This eliminates the ease of HNZ sales for any successive government, which will have to consult with each and every one of those communities to sell stock.

    If we have unlivable housing stock on large sections in large collective areas, then we have the potential to regenerate those areas while replacing old housing stock, and providing new affordable homes. Funding comes in part from the value of the land, the involvement and commitment of the purchasers of the houses available to purchase (for their own residential use) and the facilitation of a government loan, and development support service that will take each and every community up to the position where they can get a mortgage from our very own Kiwibank.

    The alignment of cohousing development with traditional Māori and Pasifika values is very high, and would be a coherent response to the paucity of Te Ao Māori in urban residential design.

    Even an allocation of 2% of housing affordability programmes, would allow this scheme to be trialled and refined.

    NZ has an emergent problem with housing, one that cannot be resolved with continued build, use then sell cycles.

  14. Capn Insano 14

    I was glad to see you put up median income figures in response to the mean figures these National pricks are so fond of using. I’m roughly on that median figure as gross income before tax. I don’t consider these prices to be in the realms of affordability. I’m paying off a car plus the insurance and the other usual living costs, certainly not what I’d consider extravagant.
    Nick Smith still has his head up his arse so much that he can check whether he needs to floss from the inside.

  15. Tracey 15

    “300 odd units “affordable” units will not even scratch the Auckland housing crisis, ”

    This is going to be a problem for them when arguing the iwi/right to buy case IF they need to rely on a definition of social housing. I note Smith is already using it interchangeably with “affordable”. Only problem is that “affordable” isn’t in the legislation “social housing” is and it has (I suggest a very different meaning).

    Mostly the Court will look to how “social housing” has been interpreted in NZ and represented throughout our history and legislation.

  16. RRM 16

    How do you propose the government might make Auckland housing more affordable?

    Bearing in mind that the current market prices reflect the existing supply of houses that is available and what the existing pool of buyers is willing to pay.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 16.1

      Do you actually read any of the myriad threads and comments on that very subject in this very forum?

      Short attention span? Comprehension issues? Or simple malice and bad faith?

      • RRM 16.1.1

        I just Trademe searched houses, townhouses and units (NOT Apartments) in Auckland, 1-2 bedrooms, $300,000 or less, and there were 120 results.

        Fortnightly payments on a mortgage of ($300,000 – $55,000 = $245,000) over 30 years at 6% is $677 per fortnight… that’s a bit more affordable!

        Nick Smith is obviously putting his foot in it trying to defend this Hobsonville Development as “affordable housing” such as first home buyers might consider, but CLEARLY affordable first homes ARE out there.

        You just have to be willing to participate in the gentrification of Mt Wellington or Manurewa.

        Them’s the breaks… 😉

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Meanwhile, on Earth, the government and Reserve Bank are trying to figure out what to do about the housing crisis in Auckland.

          Or rather, the Reserve Bank is trying to fix the housing crisis, and the bought government is trying to look as though it wants to fix the housing crisis.

          • RRM

            That wasn’t the question, genius.

            I asked the author of this thread what HE thought the Govt should do.

            Thank you for your concern.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Just pointing out that people with more influence (not to mention braincells) than you seem to have decided there’s a problem.

              • RRM

                People with more influence [and brain cells] than me appear to want their constituents to believe they are concerned about the problem. There’s a difference…

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Wheeler has constituents? Where do you get these fascinating shiny new facts from?

                  • RRM


                    I said “the government.”

                    You said “the government.”

                    The Government has constituents.

                    I have to ask… do you have a job? Or are you just on here all day, every day, practising your bait and switch non sequiturs?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      I said “the government and Reserve Bank“, by way of an illustration of the fact that you’re in denial of the problem.

                      So why don’t you buy a table at Cabinet Club and pay for your own government policy if you hate this one so much?

            • r0b

              RRM – since you’re asking me, I think the govt should
              (1) introduce a broad CGT and cut tax breaks on property speculation
              (2) ensure that overseas investors must build a new house rather than buy an existing one
              (3) improve the support available to first-time home buyers
              (4) encourage “densification” as per:

              What they are currently doing is cosmetic fiddling round the edges.

              • RRM

                Excellent, thank you.

                (1) I totally support, it is ridiculous the way many on the right complain about how little investment in business there is in NZ, while in the same breath defending the special tax-free status of buying, selling and running rental property (if you do it right.) Why would you put money into anything else when houses are, well, as safe as houses?

                What does (3) actually mean though?
                When we bought our house, we narrowly missed qualifying for a free $5,000 from housing NZ.. I thought that seemed pretty generous of my fellow taxpayers to stump up $5k to help me buy myself an appreciating asset?

        • DH

          “I just Trademe searched houses, townhouses and units (NOT Apartments) in Auckland, 1-2 bedrooms, $300,000 or less, and there were 120 results. ”

          You people who quote Trademe need to learn how to use it, you just look foolish.

          Try actually reading some of the listings you found. I filtered your search further by cutting out the dross below $150k which won’t be relevant.

          House, Townhouse, Unit, 1 – 2 bedrooms, $150,000 – $300,000

          That reduced your 120 results to 77. Then you need to filter out all the deceitful agents insertions for auctions, price by negotiation… then filter leasehold & then wrong category or area and so on… until you reach pretty much a big fat zero.

          • RRM

            “Wrong area”

            Oh ok you got me, there aren’t many $300k houses in Takapuna or Herne Bay. My bad.

            • DH

              “Oh ok you got me, there aren’t many $300k houses in Takapuna or Herne Bay. My bad.”

              You’re just making yourself look even more foolish. If you’d looked even at the first page of search results you would have discovered the search included houses from outside Auckland… like Wellsford. Your Trademe search also found propeties in Waiheke, Rakino Island, Great Barrier Island and other unsuitable areas.

              Stop digging… you’ll only get yourself in deeper. Go try again and show us where these sub $300k houses are in Auckland.

        • Wayne

          My first home was in Manurewa, near James Cook High. Seemed OK to me to get a start. And I am pretty sure quite a few of the houses in that area will be under $500,000. But unlikely to be much less than $400,000.

      • RRM 16.1.2

        “Short attention span? Comprehension issues? Or simple malice and bad faith?”

        For YOU, oab, I’ll say bad faith.

        Buying a house isn’t easy. People scrimp and save for years to get a deposit together. People work out how much they can afford to spend, and then they go looking at houses in areas they can afford.
        And then the REAL scrimping and saving begins, once the mortgage repayments start going out, AND the insurance premiums, AND the quarterly council rates bills, AND the maintenance issues that you suddenly can’t just call the landlord about, they are YOUR problem and yours alone.

        So when I see yet another article about how flash new townhouses in nice areas AREN’T AFFORDABLE TO FIRST HOME BUYERS I just think; cry me a river.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          You’d better get onto the government then, and tell them to stop wasting your hard-earned tax dollars trying to fix this problem you deny.

          Perhaps buy a table at Cabinet Club. I’m sure they’ll listen to you.

          • You_Fool

            Actually it seems that RRM should go complain to the government who are calling these nice shiny new townhouses nice areas as affordable when they are clearly not… If the government wants to call things affordable when they are not then it is anyones right to point this out and to also suggest how to make it better (which is what is happening mostly in this thread)

  17. Colonial Rawshark 17

    Four to five times household income is the limit for housing to be considered “affordable.” After that, housing becomes increasingly “unaffordable.” In Auckland I suggest that “affordable” for those privileged to be working decent full time jobs, is in the $300K to $400K range.

    Of course, with the political parties we have now, that’s never going to happen.

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