Housing pain: Two-thirds of Kiwis say house prices need to fall

Almost two thirds of Kiwis say house prices need to fall after a year of skyrocketing growth drove values to record highs and put housing affordability back on the political agenda.

The latest NZ Herald-Kantar Poll shows 64 per cent of Kiwis believe house prices need to fall – up from 52 per cent when the same question was asked in a poll just before October’s election.

And, about a third – or 31 per cent – were not bothered whether the value of their own property dropped by a quarter as recommended by some economists.

That 25 per cent would take house prices back to their values of January 2020.

But one in five Kiwis, or 19 per cent, said they would be “very concerned” at that sharp drop as their house was their biggest asset, while 28 per cent were either moderately or slightly concerned if their house price value fell that much.

Just 4 per cent said prices needed to rise in the latest poll, while 28 per cent said prices should stay about the same.

Labour and the Greens welcomed the findings, saying they were “acutely aware” of the struggle many Kiwis faced getting on to the property ladder.

The National Party agreed booming prices were having “massive” social impact, but said the Government’s “scattergun” attempt to solve the crisis had failed.

Westpac acting chief economist Michael Gordon said it was clear Kiwis of all ages worried how younger generations would afford to buy, but this had so far done little to bring about change.

“While surveys say one thing, there probably hasn’t been a lot of sympathy when it comes to the auction rooms,” he said.

Booming prices have again made housing a key political battleground after it surprisingly featured little in last year’s election campaign.

Auckland’s median house price hit a record $1.13 million in April, up 22 per cent from a year earlier, while national prices jumped 19 per cent to $810,000, according to the Real Estate Institute.

April’s Auckland prices were already $150,000 higher than just eight months earlier when the previous NZ Herald-Kantar Poll was completed.

It meant booming prices had continued to bring profit to homeowners, but prevent many others from getting on to the property ladder.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said the nation was at risk of dividing between home-owning haves and have-nots.

Feeling pressure to act, the Labour Government in March also proposed sweeping measures aimed at giving more Kiwis the chance to buy.

These included a $3.8 billion boost to housing construction and new taxes on investors designed to reduce buyer competition by making property investing less profitable.

The Reserve Bank also brought back restrictions that made it harder to borrow money for home loans.

The Treasury subsequently tipped the measures would work.

It now expected house prices to grow at just 0.9 per cent by mid next year, slowing from 17.3 per cent this year.

Westpac’s Gordon agreed prices would likely no longer rise as fast as investors bought fewer homes.

The latest April data already showed investors had borrowed less money since the tax changes were unveiled, he said.

Gordon also tipped prices would actually fall in the coming years. But that was due to expectations home loan interest rates would begin rising rather than because of the Government’s intervention, he said.

Labour’s Housing Minister Megan Woods, on the other hand, said forecasts of slowing price growth and record levels of new building showed the Government’s plan to tackle the “overheated” housing market was working.

The Greens’ Davidson also welcomed the NZ Herald-Kantar Poll results, saying it chimed with what her team had been hearing from ordinary Kiwis.

But she wanted further steps taken to stop rapid price jumps, including “a big increase in state and community housing build and a tax on wealth accumulated by property speculators”.

National housing spokeswoman Nicola Willis said the “ripple effects” from booming house prices could be seen in “every community”.

These included “rising rents, children living with their parents for much longer than they or their parents would like, overcrowded housing, a record level of people waiting for a state house and thousands of children being raised in motels”.

“It’s of increasing concern to most New Zealanders: whether they own a home or not,” she said.

To combat it, National would work faster to increase the supply of new housing, Willis said.

That included pushing councils to zone more land as available for housing construction and giving greater infrastructure funding to support that housing.

Younger Kiwis were most keen for prices to fall, according to the NZ Herald-Kantar Poll.

Of those aged between 18-29 years, 76 per cent said house prices needed to fall.

Among those earning incomes of $100,000 or above – who were also more likely to already be homeowners – 40 per cent said prices needed to hold steady, while 11 per cent said they needed to rise.

Of the higher earners, 44 per cent said prices needed to fall, despite any falls presumably coming at a cost to their personal wealth.

Among those aged 60 or above, just 2 per cent said prices needed to rise, while 62 per cent said prices needed to fall.

Just 3 per cent of those aged 50-59 said prices needed to rise, while 50 per cent said prices needed to fall.

The poll also revealed the pressure singles felt.

Seventy-six per cent of those who had never married said prices needed to fall, while 69 per cent of those who had divorced or separated also wanted them to fall.

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