The NZ homeowners who hate high house prices are revealed in Labour polling

Labour's polling suggests people believe policies targetting investors would bring house prices down.
JOHN COWIE/FAIRFAX NZ

Labour's polling suggests people believe policies targetting investors would bring house prices down.

Homeowners love high house prices, right?

Labour Party political polling suggests in many cases, they don't, and want politicians to introduce policies to bring down the value of their homes.

The polling, done in September by by UMR Research, suggests 89 per cent of renters believe there is a housing crisis, and that 79 per cent of homeowners believe it too.

Housing crisis deniers are outnumbered by people who think house prices must come down.
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Housing crisis deniers are outnumbered by people who think house prices must come down.

UMT drilled down further, and reported that 55 per cent of all homeowners, and 48 per cent of Auckland homeowners, would prefer to see Auckland house prices fall, though most wanted them to "fall, but not too much".

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Political parties poll in order to work out what policies to take into elections, though they rarely publicly release that polling.

"People are now actually hostile to housing inflation," says Phil Twyford.
SARAH ROBERTS/FAIRFAX NZ

"People are now actually hostile to housing inflation," says Phil Twyford.

But Labour now believes housing will be the defining battleground of the general election in September, and its housing spokesman Phil Twyford has released the polling to back the claim up.

It shows roughly two thirds of people believe a trifecta of policies could bring down house prices.

The three policies are; banning non-residents from buying existing homes, ending tax breaks for property investors, and the Government building houses en masse to on-sell at cost to first-time homebuyers.

All are policies Labour will take into the election.

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National's housing policy, by contrast, has focused on creating special housing areas in Auckland, reforming the Resource Management Act, and requiring Councils to ensure land supply for housing keeps pace with growth.

The UMR polling suggests eight in 10 people either blame central government for the housing crisis, or hold them jointly culpable with local councils.

Some blame also attaches to former Labour governments.

One Waikato man told pollsters: "National inherited this problem from Labour."

Twyford says the rising concern of homeowners has made housing into "the number one political issue of the day".

"It's not only the half of the population who rent. Two thirds of house holders, who have probably had high capital gains, all hate it that their children and their grandchildren can't afford homes."

One grandfather who feels that way is Hugh Pavletich, who had been campaigning for sweeping reform of housing policy for more than a decade as he's watched house prices spiral up and up.

"People are now actually hostile to housing inflation," he says. "It was all fun in the beginning, and for the first few years, until the kids came knocking on the door wanting $100,000 or $200,000 for the deposit on a home."

Pavletich calls housing wealth "illusory" except for a small proportion of society including property speculators and investors, real estate agents, banks, and retirees able to sell up in Auckland and relocate to the provinces.

For everyone else, he says: "I refer to it as a poverty creation programme."

The young are either trapped into lifelong renting, or forced to take on gigantic mortgages, and simple things like moving house become costly and difficult in a "high multiple" housing market, Pavletich says.

Housing academic Philippa Howden-Chapman, who is part of a special interest academic housing group, said the idea that rising house prices were good was based on the neo-liberal model in which every person is a selfish, individual actor.

Many people with families do not feel that way, and are also concerned about their loved ones' ability to buy houses, and the instability of a life spent renting, always just a 90-day notice from eviction should the landlord want them out.

She says: "In our housing group, we have been concerned for a long time that people with children are having to move house a lot. For children, in particular, moving is, after the death of a loved one, the most stressful event."

Labour's polling appears to show the public has a good grasp of what has driven house prices up, with factors named including: too few houses being built, foreign investors buying Auckland houses as though they are an investment commodity, high migration levels, government failure, low interest rates, no tax on capital gains, local council rules, and banks lending too easily.

But not everybody thinks there is a crisis, and the biggest crisis deniers are people who identify as National voters, with 25 per cent telling UMR that there was no crisis.

Just 3 per cent of Labour voters, and 15 per cent of NZ First voters felt the same.

Crisis deniers argue there is "not a universal problem", believe the young have "unrealistic expectations", and that there is no crisis when  people can rent homes.

Some believe "media sensationalism" is responsible for creating the impression of a crisis.

Some think New Zealand was experiencing its share of a "worldwide problem".

The polling suggests just under half think the "Kiwi dream" of all New Zealand families being able to have a standalone home with a big enough section for children to play on is over, and in modern cities standalone homes are now the preserve of the rich, with most people living in apartments, or terraced houses.

Pavletich says politicians are "polling parrots", seeking policies backed by enough voters, especially potential swing voters, to get them elected.

UMR found that one in five Aucklanders identifying as National voters class themselves as "losers" in the housing market, compared to 66 per cent who said they were winners.

By contrast, just 38 per cent of Aucklanders who identifIed as Labour voters say they are winners.

 - Sunday Star Times

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