Auckland housing consents up 33 per cent

Auckland building activity continues to pick up, but it is not making the city's houses more affordable, a housing researcher says.

New figures released by Statistics New Zealand today show 6779 new housing consents were issued in the 12 months to May, up 33 per cent from the 12 months to May last year.

Residential building activity in Auckland is now double the level it was five years ago, when only 3390 houses were consented in the 12 months to May 2009.

Meanwhile, a new Massey University housing affordability report out today has ranked Auckland the least affordable region in the country, 38 per cent worse than the national average and 9.1 per cent worse than last year.

And Rodney Dickens, director of Strategic Risk Analysis, said the boost in building consent figures didn't mean much in terms of affordability.

"We come at it more from looking at where new housing costs are and where they need to be to be affordable," Dickens said.

"On that front there has been no improvement. While we are waiting for all those new sections to come through, section prices have gone up."

REINZ figures show the median section price in the North Shore is up to $450,000, while sections in the cheapest area, West Auckland, still sell for a median $290,000.

The Government and Auckland Council are hoping to address the issue through a housing accord signed last year that targets 39,000 new building and subdivision consents over three years.

But Dickens said there were issues pushing up section prices that had not been addressed by the accord such as land supply - "being able to buy land from farmers rather than land bankers" - and infrastructure costs.

And he warned that unless Auckland got more affordable housing coming onto the market it would be left vulnerable to a downturn, particularly if interest rates kept rising.

"The fact they haven't yet addressed the affordability issue makes them more vulnerable," he said.

"The ratios are worse in Auckland in terms of income to borrowing so once you get high interest rates on top of that it bites more."