Editorial: Dark clouds and silver linings

19:49, Jul 02 2014

It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. And so all this hail, snow and sleet, with gales, cold and misery attached has one very delightful consequence: the most affordable housing in New Zealand.

Massey University's quarterly Home Affordability Report has confirmed Southland's position as having the most affordable homes of any province in the country. Not only that, but Southland's position has become even sunnier. Affordability, as Massey measures it, has improved by 14.4 per cent over the past year.

The calculation is made by comparing average weekly earnings with the median dwelling price and mortgage interest rates. While the dairy boom has boosted incomes in the south, at least for some, house prices have been broadly static. So despite a small uptick in mortgage rates, Southland comes out smiling.

In Auckland meanwhile, affordability has deteriorated by 9.1 per cent. There, Quotable Value reports the average price of a house being more than $700,000, compared to about $200,000 in Southland.

But why is the province such a cheap place to buy a home? The answer is right outside the window, falling out of the sky. The province has a mostly undeserved reputation for miserable weather. People do not want to live here.

"What's that? You live in Invercargill? You poor sod!" people from more fashionable districts will say.


Our pride is understandably pricked by having ignorant fools look down their noses at our home in this way. But the dark cloud of Southland's reputation brings with it a lining of silver coin. Unpopularity means weak demand, cheap houses, and cheap rent for those who are not homeowners.

So we should welcome the rattle of hail against the window with a smile. The sight of snowflakes whirling through the sky should have us dancing on air. And the ice on the car windscreen when we go to work should warm our hearts.

Foolish Aucklanders, ignorant of the south's delights and fearing a little rain, pay eye-watering prices for hovels in Otara. We buy mansions in Otatara for a pittance.

Southlanders are entitled to laugh. And with the piles of money left over we can buy luxuries such as firewood, umbrellas, warm woollen mittens and holidays in Tahiti.

The Southland Times