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Home ownership trend set to continue

Last updated 15:21 12/02/2014
NZ home ownership map

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Falling rates of home ownership identified in the census have heightened concerns about society becoming increasingly unequal.

The 2013 census recorded 64.8 per cent of households owning their own homes, including those with a mortgage, or holding them in a family trust. That was down from 66.9 per cent at the 2006 census.

Last year, 35.2 per cent of households did not own their own home, up from 33.1 per cent in 2006.

Professor Philip Morrison of the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University, said it was likely an increasing number of people were unable to become homeowners.

"This is likely to affect their absolute and relative wealth position in years to come and potentially lead to greater inequality - in wealth," he said.

"To the extent that this disadvantage is concentrated among those who are already experiencing income inequality the two may work together and compound into an even more unequal society."

Some of the biggest falls in home ownership between the censuses were found in some Auckland local board areas, with ownership rates down by 4 percentage points or more in five of the board areas.

In contrast, the Orakei local board area is one of the few places where ownership rates have risen. It also has a higher median household income, at $107,900, than any of the territorial authorities, or any of the other local boards.

In several of the Auckland board areas, ownership slipped by less than 1 percentage point.

The only other parts of the country where ownership rates have slipped by more than 4 percentage points are South Waikato, Kawerau, Ashburton and Southland.

Apart from Orakei, the few places where ownership rates have increased are in the Great Barrier local board area, Central Hawke's Bay, Kaikoura and Westland districts, and Porirua City.

Central Hawke's Bay had the biggest increase, with ownership up 1.2 percentage points to 70.25 per cent.

The map shows home-ownership rates by areas controlled by territorial authorities, or by Auckland local boards.

Morrison noted the census data measured whether a dwelling was owned by the people living in it on census night, not the number of people who owned dwellings.

Issues connected to home ownership included whether owner-occupancy affected the rate of dwelling deterioration.

If it did, there were implications for the quality of housing stock in some areas, which could affect the relative attractiveness of those areas.

A second question was the effect on people.

"If fewer people in the area are now owners, might that affect their ability to accumulate wealth, get loans, alter their self esteem and perhaps even their level of interest in city services and their commitment to the neighbourhood?" Morrison said.

"The research is quite ambiguous on whether such relationships exist or not, but they are popularly believed to do so."

In lower-income areas, lower levels of home ownership could mean lower levels of indebtedness to banks as mortgagees, and the ability to spend more on other things such as local retailers and services.

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"There is even some discussion in the literature as to whether rising costs of home ownership affect levels of fertility (due to substitution of expenditure away from children)," Morrison said.

In any case, the rates of change in home ownership shown in the census were not high.

- Fairfax Media

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