22 Oct 2013

Migration gain boosts pressure on housing

7:53 am on 22 October 2013

Housing markets in Auckland and Christchurch will remain under extra pressure from rising demand for houses from migrants.

Official figures show a seasonally adjusted net gain of 2800 migrants in September, the highest number in 10 years.

Fewer people left New Zealand and more New Zealanders returned home on the back of a weaker Australian economy and a stronger economy this side of the Tasman.

On an annual basis, there's been a net gain of 15,200 people, which is above the long term average annual net gain of 11,300 migrants over the last 20 years.

ASB Bank chief economist Nick Tuffley expects net migration to rise to about 25,000 sometime next year, which will provide much-needed skills as well as boost consumer spending.

But Mr Tuffley said it puts added pressure on Auckland's already heated housing market. Chronic under-supply is the reason for the rise in house prices over recent years, he said.

And Canterbury is seeing a big jump in arriving migrants, helped by the arrival of overseas workers for the Christchurch re-build.

Mortgage brokers cover about 30% of the market in Auckland.

Stephen Wilton from Mortgage Minders said there had been a marked increase in mortgage activity over the last two years and the migration figures re-inforce the higher demand for housing.

If migration blew out to a net increase of 25,000 people in one year's time, it would add to the pressures on housing in Auckland, where the presence of overseas buyers was obvious at housing auctions.

"It really puts a huge question mark over the recent Reserve Bank changes," Mr Wilton said.

The central bank is constraining first-home buyers, but the migration figures suggest the real pressure on prices is coming from newcomers to the country, he said.

There is no problem with migration, as long as the housing sector is set to supply the necessary accommodation, but that is not happening.

Another Auckland-based mortgage broker, Squirrel, has specific Chinese and Indian teams to deal with migrants from those countries, and also deals predominantly with expatriate New Zealanders.

Managing director John Bolton said people are arriving every day for whom there aren't houses available.

Meanwhile Squirrel said demand for mortgages in Auckland has tanked since the Reserve Bank introduced the restrictions on lending to people with small deposits.

Mr Bolton said his company normally signs about $30 million of mortgages a month, but it's dropped to $16 million since the rules came into force.