Time to boost workers' pay, and first home buyers

OPINION: 

I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. If you want to achieve something go and do it, any time of the year, I reckon.

But I do have two things on my wish list for 2015 - not so much for me, more for first home buyers, and workers, who surely deserve a decent pay rise as businesses cash in on what is likely to be another strong year.

It's well past time there was action on both fronts. First home buyers have been largely locked out of the market over the past year with the Reserve Bank's decision to introduce loan to value ratios. Basically you can't buy a house if you haven't got a 20 per cent deposit.

Perversely, this has knocked first home buyers for six, paving the way for property investors to make hay while the sun shines.

The rich have got richer and the poor have been locked out.

LVRs were largely introduced to cool the overheated Auckland housing market and it did, initially. Annual house price inflation fell from 10 per cent nationwide, to 4.9 per cent. In Auckland it fell from 17 per cent to 8.5 per cent.

But it also punished thousands of young people outside of Auckland, in places like New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North, Ashburton and Rangiora.

Suddenly their $25,000 deposit needed to be doubled and the bank shut them out. It's time these LVRs came off to help young Kiwis on to the property ladder. It's time they too were allowed to cash in on the record low interest rates on offer.

Why does the rest of New Zealand have to be punished for what is an Auckland problem? Why can't LVRs be dropped to 10 per cent for properties under $400,000?

The general concept was that the LVRs were a temporary measure that would cool demand until supply ramps up. Surely that's starting to happen - building consent levels are high. But I fear none of this will take place.

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Actually, the talk this week has been that the Reserve Bank may actually bring in a new tool to make it even harder to buy a house because the Auckland market has gained new momentum since the election.

It could mean even further limits and restraints on what people can borrow. For those in the first home buyer market - and their parents trying to help them - cross your fingers, you're going to need some luck, and decisions, to go your way this year.

It's also well past time for employers to give their workers a decent pay rise.

At the end of last year the Household Labour Force Survey showed workers' average ordinary-time weekly earnings increased by just 1.7 per cent. And only one in two workers got a pay rise.

Yes, inflation has been low - but economic growth has been strong (growing by 3.2 per cent last year, a standout among Western nations). This year growth is expected to hit 3 per cent. It's well past time that workers got to share in this economic glory.

HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham labelled us a "rock star economy" last year and this week he told me 2015 would bring the encore.

Now, if that's the case then workers need to share in the success after a few years of doing it hard. Not all employers are miserable but my advice is knock on the boss's door and ask for a pay rise.

Be prepared: Ask how the company is doing and know when your last pay rise was. The truth is your boss probably doesn't want to lose you and you may come out pleasantly surprised.

POLICE had no other option this week than to swallow a big juicy dead rat over the "zero tolerance" holiday speed campaign.

They told us there was "zero tolerance" when officers did, in fact, have discretion. So police brass lied to us.

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse knew about the discretion and admitted to me that he sped during the holidays for that reason. In the end just 14 people were ticketed for going between 1-4kmh over the speed limit.

One of those was an 80 year-old grandmother who was ticketed doing 52kmh in a 50kmh zone.

Her son emailed me this week. She was mortified. He was furious. Police need to cancel her ticket and the other 13.

If they don't, this speeding granny should take police to court and challenge them. Not only would she win - but I'm sure most of us would be on her side.

One other person was ticketed doing 1kmh over the 50kmh limit.

Police say they won't cancel that ticket because the driver was clocked doing 63kmh but the radar only locked on at 51kmh.

Try that argument in court. Police would be sent packing. If the police minister can break the law without penalty, then we all can.

 - The Dominion Post

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