Housing Affordability in New Zealand

From the IMF’s latest report on New Zealand:

“The government is refocusing elements of its multi-pronged approach to improve housing affordability.

  • On the demand side, the policy measures so far have included an increase in the accommodation supplement—a cash subsidy linked to low-income recipients’ actual rents or home ownership costs; the extension from two to five years of the period during which capital gains on residential investment property are taxed (“bright line test”); a change in the tax treatment of residential rental losses, which can only be deducted from future taxable income from rental properties rather than taxable income in general; and a ban on the purchase of residential property by nonresidents under the Overseas Investment Amendment Act.
  • On the supply side, the implementation of the KiwiBuild program—where the government plans to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-time home buyers over ten years from 2018—is lagging. The government is currently considering a reset of the program, which is likely to be smaller in scale and more regional needs-based, while at the same time prioritizing social housing, and rent support for low-income households. The Urban Growth Agenda is the umbrella for other measures on the supply side, including related to planning, zoning, and the provision of housing-related infrastructure.
  • On the institutional side, the government established the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, consolidating responsibilities for the housing agenda. The government agency Kāinga Ora―Homes and Communities was established as the lead developer for affordable homes and social housing.

Staff’s Views

  • Improving housing affordability would lower macrofinancial risks and contribute to more sustainable growth. Housing affordability has barely improved, notwithstanding the housing market cooling. House prices are expected to continue rising under the baseline economic outlook. Demand for housing is likely to remain strong, given population growth and low interest rates, while the supply response is constrained by land use and other restrictions. Construction costs are high. Improving housing affordability would reduce inequality and contribute to lower macrofinancial risks, and, in the longer term, make growth more sustainable, including by supporting productivity through agglomeration externalities. Supply-side reforms are central for broad improvements in affordability, although additional direct support might be required for some lower-income households.
  • The government’s continued focus on advancing its comprehensive housing policy agenda is welcome. The consolidation for housing-related policies in one Ministry should help in policy implementation. Steps taken to support local governments’ infrastructure funding and financing to facilitate timely infrastructure provision are welcome developments.
  • Nonetheless, the housing policy agenda could benefit from some further measures. The objectives of the KiwiBuild program could, at lower risk to the budget, be achieved through other means, including, for example, temporary tax credits for the construction sector to adopt new technology, rather than the government taking on the role of a developer. Staff welcomes the government’s intention to consider adding elements of tax reform, such as a tax on all vacant land, to the agenda. A broad land tax, for example, would support more efficient land use. Since the comprehensive agenda should foster housing affordability on a non-discriminatory basis, the ban on purchases of residential property by nonresidents should be removed, given its use is not in line with the IMF’s Institutional View (IV) on capital flows. At the local level, there should be reforms to simplify and standardize zoning and permit local councils to actively plan for and enable housing supply growth and planning reforms.

Authorities’ Views

  • The implementation of the government’s multi-pronged approach to improve housing affordability is advancing. A more comprehensive housing policy agenda is taking shape, including increased focus on making housing for lower income households more affordable through a better accommodation supplement. The authorities highlighted that, in addition to the housing related measures already put in place, the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has reinforced institutional capacity to deliver the full breadth of the housing plan, including on the legislative changes needed to ensure more affordable houses and the related infrastructure development. The ministry will be supported by a new government entity for affordable housing development, Kāinga Ora―Homes and Communities, to strengthen delivery.
  • The authorities do not consider the restrictions on purchases of residential property by nonresidents to be a CFM measure. The restrictions do not aim to affect capital flows or resolve a balance of payments issue. They are a demand-side measure to ban overseas speculators against the backdrop of the government’s comprehensive housing agenda. The goal is to create a housing market with prices shaped by New Zealanders, and to make homes more affordable. They also pointed out that the Phase I review of the Overseas Investment Act (OIA) not only brought residential land into the category of sensitive land but also simplified the rules for investment in forestry by overseas persons.”


Posted by at 12:25 PM

Labels: Global Housing Watch


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