A place to call home

FIRST HOME BUYERS: Rochelle and Alex Blackford with children Karli, 3, and Jaxon, 10 weeks, are battling to get on the Queenstown property market.
FIRST HOME BUYERS: Rochelle and Alex Blackford with children Karli, 3, and Jaxon, 10 weeks, are battling to get on the Queenstown property market.

A proposed government Housing Accord is giving little hope to first home buyers struggling to get onto the resort's property ladder.

Government officials working on the accord held a series of meetings in Queenstown in the last two weeks and Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Adam Feeley says a draft accord could be available in a couple of months.

However, it would take some time for the details to be nutted out and special housing areas - areas identified as suitable for affordable housing that qualify for exemptions under the Resource Management Act - to be agreed upon.

Property watchers say an accord is making a difference in the overheated Auckland property market but many are skeptical about its ability to make a impact here.

Mortgage Link's Charlie Reid was among them.

"I would love to say yes, but I don't think so. Regardless of how you cut it it's still bloody expensive for first home buyers. I just don't know how we overcome that.

"You look at Lake Hayes Estate. There's a few new properties there but to find anything under $600,000 is a real struggle."

It was difficult to find something established for less than $500,000.

Reserve Bank restrictions on the number of loans permitted for people with deposits of less than 20 per cent had seen banks tighten their lending criteria in the last six months making it more difficult for first home buyers.

While many banks were now relaxing those restrictions, buying a first home for $500,000 with a 10 per cent deposit could see owners face crippling repayments.

Also, while interest rates had been historically low, Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler had clearly indicated they would rise.

Solutions were needed but a housing accord was not the answer.

"We don't want to have affordable housing areas because it will have bad connotations. How do you maintain a standard and make it affordable? We need to provide support. That's what the (Queenstown Lakes Community) housing trust is doing but it needs more ammunition."

The only answer was to provide more money for affordable housing, or reduce the cost.

"But the only way to reduce the cost is to reduce land cost or build cost and I don't see that happening."

Real Estate Institute spokesman Kelvin Collins said affordable housing was a 100-year-old problem in the district but was getting some momentum.

"My personal opinion is we need to change our expectations of housing. Everyone has this dream they want a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. Really you should start with a two-bedroom apartment and then you move to the next thing."

He suggested more apartment living and apartments with common outdoor areas as were found in Europe would work.

There was a real shortage of housing available for under $500,000.

Mother Rochelle Blackford said her family would love to get into their own home but it was looking impossible for now.

"We don't have the family backing to help us get into a house and ... we've got in a position with a bit of personal debt. Every bank looks at us and says no.

"Even if we can get to our 10 per cent the house prices are so expensive. Our repayments would be through the roof."

Currently she was renting a home in Arrowtown with husband Alex, a joiner and operations manager at Format Kitchens, daughter Karli, 3, and newborn Jaxon.

They had previously been renting at Lake Hayes Estate.

"Houses there are now going for $600 a week for three or four bedrooms. You can't afford to start saving. It's just a vicious circle."

Plans to leave for somewhere more affordable had to be put aside with Alex suffering a surgical injury which has put him on ACC with a two year recovery period making it impossible for him to get work elsewhere.

The Southland Times