14 Jul 2016

Hunting for an 'affordable' Auckland home

7:45 pm on 14 July 2016

An Auckland mother says she has given up trying to buy a home in the city, despite increasing her budget from $550,000 to $750,000.

She is among thousands of people searching for an affordable home in Auckland's Special Housing Areas (SHAs). But some would-be house buyers say it is proving extremely difficult to find out who is developing these areas, and almost impossible to contact them.

The SHAs were created under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act, introduced to Parliament in May 2013.

The areas must include a reserve of affordable homes for people on an average income.

They were described by Housing Minister Nick Smith as "a core part of the government's work to improve housing affordability".

The Special Housing Area at Weymouth, established under the Auckland Housing Accord.

The Special Housing Area at Weymouth, established under the Auckland Housing Accord. Photo: Supplied

Auckland mother Michaela said she had given up trying to buy one of the designated affordable homes after being unable to make contact with 12 of the 13 developers she found on Auckland Council's website.

Bronwen, who also asked for only her first name to be used, was coming up against similar hurdles.

She had been looking for an affordable home in a SHA for the past two years.

She told Checkpoint with John Campbell she had tried hard, via the web and Companies Office, made phone calls and visited the Citizens Advice Bureau, but had no luck.

She had resorted to driving to each of the housing areas to look for people to speak to, she said.

When she first started looking two years ago she had a budget of about $550,000, but the family had since stretched that to $750,000.

"We realised $550,000 is unrealistic, even though that's apparently within the affordable range."

She was expecting her second child and was on the verge of giving up.

"We just keep coming to dead ends. Nobody seems willing to help, nobody seems to know anything really."

The family was now looking elsewhere in New Zealand.

"We've worked hard to save a deposit and we really thought here was a possible solution, but even just talking to people my own age, people trying to find their first home... they're coming up with the same struggle. It's been really hard."

The Auckland Council has said it will look at setting up a help guide for first-home buyers trying to find affordable housing.

Will Hobsonville work - and is it enough?

The pin-up development for how SHAs might work is Hobsonville Point in north-west Auckland, with homes rising from what were fields and Air Force land not very long ago.

It's a mixed price community and 20 percent of the homes being built in the area are deemed affordable. A total of 10 percent of the company's dwellings are being built to sell at $450,000, 5 percent at $500,000 and 5 percent at $550,000.

Other houses are being built to sell for more than $1.6 million.

The project is being managed by Housing New Zealand entity Hobsonville Land Company.

14072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Katja Lietz, Precinct Director, Hobsonville Land Company.

Katja Lietz Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The company's precinct director, Katja Lietz, said she considered homes at or below $550,000 to be affordable.

Ms Lietz did not have figures on how much money Housing New Zealand was making from the development, but said the development aimed to be an example for other projects around the country, and developers needed to make a profit to make such a deal attractive.

"What we are proving is you can still make affordable homes in the Auckland market and that you're still able to make a profit doing so."

There were more people wanting the homes in the affordable range than what was available, Ms Lietz said.

People were encouraged to visit Hobsonville Point, find a building partner and add their names to that partner's ballot, she said.

Would-be buyers had to be a New Zealand resident, planning to live in the home for two years and a first-home buyer to be eligible.

14072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Hobsonville is booming. Around 20% of the homes being built here will be affordable homes.

Hobsonville is a hub for construction activity. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

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