OPINION: If it's a skite, it's a sane one, justified by more than just finances, that Southland has the wherewithal to exert a strong attraction for New Zealanders wanting affordable housing.
The nation has a gasping shortage of accessible housing, and the Christchurch rebuild is going to concentrate enormous building resources on replacing loss, rather than generating growth.
Meanwhile, young New Zealanders who despair of being able to afford a decent sort of home-with-lifestyle have been heading overseas.
Yet the latest home loan affordability index contains news that it takes just 21 per cent of an average weekly take-home wage to pay the mortgage on a median-priced house in Southland, in happy contrast to a colon-clenching, eye-watering 69 per cent for Auckland, where the median sales price is now $500,000.
This means there's plenty of up in the upshot for Southlanders, who have $270 more in weekly disposable income after seeing to their mortgage repayments than Aucklanders.
Heaping misery on misery for those with less than incandescent incomes, what new homes are being built are at the more expensive end of the market.
In fact, Finance Minister Bill English has acknowledged that no housing is being built for the quarter of the population with the lowest incomes.
Not that this has much to do with the Government, apparently. State housing might once have worked in practice, but as the saying goes, nowadays the problem is would it work in theory?
It's true that rents have been rising more slowly than house prices amid a surging number of landlords willing to take lower yields in the expectation of capital gains.
To be sure, Southland in this respect holds appeal to rental investors.
Wouldn't it be lovely, though, to have an influx of buyers, perhaps those with KiwiSaver lump sums to put to use, who recognise the deep south as offering an accessible path to owning their own homes?
Homes, we might add, with a bit of room for family life.
Local Government New Zealand has joined the Productivity Commission advocating more medium-density housing as a key way of improving overall affordability. From a nationwide perspective, there is sense to this in places like Auckland.
But where affordable homes can come on an established suburban section in which each property has a bit of room to recreate with the family, then surely this is so much the better.
Southlanders themselves most likely already know this, although there is a tendency to take it for granted until they encounter some of the constrictions of buying elsewhere.
Trouble is, it's a challenge to persuade people further north to show an intelligent interest in the southern buying options. Campaigns have been launched and maintained to this end, but what would really move them along is if southerners were individually more evangelical on their own behalf.
Heaven knows, with statistics like this at our disposal, we have a powerful case.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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