Want to be a Nexus Correspondent in 2021?
Waikato Students' Union Logo

Nexus Fixes the Housing Market – Issue 16

New Zealand has a housing crisis, we’ve heard it all before. We hear it on the news all the time, we see articles published about it on a near daily basis. News headlines reading “Median Auckland housing prices at an all time high” appear way too often. The median house price across the country was sitting at a whopping $639,000 as of the 30th of June this year, with the median rent for a 2 to 4 bedroom house sitting at $525. This isn’t even taking into account the state homes which are also in short supply, with nearly 18,000 people sitting on the waiting list. So there is a supply problem across the entire country, and it needs to be addressed pretty desperately. We’re fairly certain that this issue affects everyone at Nexus. So Nexus is either a sweatshop or housing prices are actually ridiculously high. Here are a few not so out there ideas to help housing prices get back down to affordable levels.

Build up, not out
In this country you will find that the majority of dwellings are standalone houses with a lawn and a seperate garage. You could say that this is the Kiwi dream, having your own lawn to mow on a Sunday, a deck to drink your beers on during a hot December day, or work that new BBQ of yours. Those dreams are quickly becoming a thing of the past, new subdivisions take up too much space with the growing population and there needs to be another route taken to avoid this. There needs to be more apartment style buildings built in more areas. Putting a 15 unit apartment building in a decent suburb would put a decent dent in the median housing price for that area. The Government could give incentives to developers to develop these projects more often to drastically increase supply

Reconsider council zoning laws
Currently a lot of council zoning rules don’t allow for high rises to be built, for point #1 to happen they would need to be overhauled and changed so they’re a lot more relaxed in a lot more areas. A lot of suburbs don’t allow for apartment buildings to be built, and let’s face it, this country needs to be built up more than we are doing now. Get councils to rezone their areas so that not just 800sqm sections with standalone houses can be built, then you might see an increase in supply.

Do a complete overseas buyer ban for 2 years
A few years ago the current government started enforcing a buyer ban to all non residents of New Zealand. This saw home ownership transfers to people who weren’t citizens or people with resident visas fall by 81% to the previous quarter. Foreigners may be banned from purchasing most types of homes but will still be able to make limited investments in new apartments bought off-the-plan in large developments that have 20 or more units. I say ban them all together. It is unneeded demand that we are still getting from overseas that is artificially driving up the prices in both rentals and sales. If it was made so that only residents or citizens could purchase homes here for a few years, I think that would help ease the market a bit and give people here a bit more purchasing power.

Limit the number of investment properties one individual can hold
Personally I know a few people who own 10+ rentals, a combination of industrial and residential. We had a discussion about this in the office and the resident communists (my bosses) argued that it’s wrong for someone to have x amount of rentals. It’s kind of a fair point, I don’t know to what extent I will agree with it though, because there will always be people who won’t be able to afford to buy a house and will forever need to rent. If you’re on minimum wage or just above it for your entire life because you don’t bother upskilling yourself you will never be able to buy a house. So there will always be a rental market, but I don’t think you should have 100 rentals for yourself, maybe cap it at a much smaller number unless you’re a developer building 50 at a time, then you could get an exemption.

Actually build Kiwibuild homes (or state homes)
This was another pipe dream from the current government. 100,000 homes in 10 years is just not feasible alongside the private construction industry because we don’t have enough tradespeople. This government has actually built a lot of state houses to their credit, so I don’t understand why they didn’t just say they were going to build X amount of state homes to alleviate the issue of having around 18,000 people on the waiting list for emergency housing right now. Or perhaps if they focused on building Kiwibuild apartments they could easily smash out some ridiculous numbers and actually have made a dent in the initial 100,000.

Don’t make us turn this car around
Like many people when my brother and I would argue dad used to say “If you can’t work together and decide I am turning this car around and we are going home.” Housing in New Zealand is a white whale and like so many other things the best way to achieve absolutely nothing is to give it to politicians to debate. The failings of the housing market, the increases in cost and the untenable nature of speculation and capitalisation over basic human need is borderline disgusting and isn’t left or right in its construction. Labour campaigned on how they were going to fix it all, and they haven’t. 14 years ago National was campaigning about how it needed sensible solutions to fix the housing crisis. Spoiler alert; nothing is fixed. This is now a multi-generational problem that serves a greater purpose attacking another party’s inaction than it does housing people. Whether you are a right wing capitalist who believes in the private sector or a left-wing socialist who believes in capital gains tax it doesn’t matter. Pick a fucking lane and build houses or get out of the housing business. As a country we are getting close to turning the car around.

Kill your darlings
We have been solid on this dream of a ¼ acre and a batch long before we knew we wanted it and long after it ceased to be an option. The way we solve the housing crisis may begin with the realisation that we aren’t ever going to own a home. Maybe, one day if we are lucky, a shipping container, tiny house, or apartment. So perhaps we should spend some time making sure landlords can’t be complete douchebags.

At the end of the day this isn’t an easy problem to fix, and it will probably end up taking a combination of these ideas to start making a difference in the market. Not just slapping a capital gains tax on and hoping you can actually build 100,000 homes. It will take years, it’s not something that can be fixed overnight. It’s also something that the private sector and the government need to work on together. Who knows, it might be like this forever, but one can only hope.