A Reality Check on the Kiwi Dream

Home ownership increasingly unobtainable for most

New rental and house price analysis by DOT Loves Data shows that the Kiwi dream of home ownership is fast becoming a nightmare for most young New Zealanders. New Zealand’s home ownership levels peaked in 1991 at 74% and have continued on a steady decline since, dropping to 64.5% in 2018. Based on current trends, DOT Loves Data expects home ownership levels to drop even further in coming years and, given the disparity between house prices and wage levels, will likely dip beneath 60% within the next decade.

More than 20 Years to Save for a Home Deposit

DOT Loves Data has calculated the number of years New Zealanders will need to save in order to have enough funds to pay for a home deposit.

The average Auckland household will now spend up to 16 years saving for a home deposit.

Wellingtonians will take 13 years to save for a deposit, in Dunedin it will take 14 years, while Christchurch is the most affordable of the main centres at 10 years.

To reach our estimates we have assumed the average household will be able to save 20% of their earnings after deducting the average rental costs. We have used October 2021 house price data from Homes.co.nz and median income levels from Statistics NZ.

According to DOT Loves Data Government Director, Justin Lester, “New Zealand is fast becoming a nation of ‘parents-have’ versus ‘parents-have not’. If parent can afford to support their children with a house deposit, then they can take a step up the housing ladder.

It’s no longer enough to get a good job, work hard and save because house price inflation has pushed purchase prices outside of the reach of young people. Without parental support, home ownership is becoming almost unobtainable.”

As a result of these increases, which are well beyond the New Zealand wage inflation figure of 2.1% per annum, the time it takes for New Zealand families to save for a home deposit has surpassed 20 years in multiple locations.

Rental costs continue to surge

Nationally rental costs have surged by 17% over the past three years, and in Wellington and Auckland the increases have been even higher, outpacing wage inflation and eating into the savings of budding first time home owners.

Wellington currently has the highest median rental prices in New Zealand followed by Auckland, Porirua, Tauranga and Queenstown. Outside of the main centres, Selwyn District, which encompasses Rolleston and Lincoln south of Christchurch City, Napier and Hastings have the highest rental prices.

The median rental price in Wellington is $561 per week. In Auckland it is $559 per week and Porirua is close behind on $556.

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Due to its high rent, the average Wellington city household will pay 24% of its income in rent. Aucklanders will pay 28% of their income on rent, an even higher proportion than Wellingtonians due to the Capital’s higher income levels.

Rental affordability is at its worst in lower income areas of New Zealand. In Horowhenua, due to low income levels, residents will pay a sizeable 40% of their income on rent.

Meanwhile, the exodus of Aucklanders to outlying provinces such as Thames-Coromandel and Kaipara means residents of both areas will pay 37% of their income on rent.

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The most affordable rental accommodation is found in Southland District, where residents will pay on average 19%, Mackenzie District where they’ll pay 20% of their income on rent, and Selwyn on 21%, despite its high nominal rental costs, because it also has high household income levels.

Surging House Prices

In the 12 months to September, New Zealand house prices have increased by 28%. In Auckland prices have increased by 25%, in Wellington by 36%, Hamilton was 27%, Christchurch prices increased by 28% and Dunedin by 23%.

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