16 Aug 2017

Marginal improvement for renters in Auckland

5:43 pm on 16 August 2017

New figures show a slight improvement in the economic conditions for people renting a home or owning a first home.

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Photo: RNZ

But the improvement is so small it appears almost level on housing affordability graphs.

The figures also show little substantial change in housing affordability since 2003.

The information comes from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and is contained in the second release of its Housing Affordability Measure, which runs from 2003 to March 2016.

The measure - known as HAM - is based on an average figure for the main costs of owning a home: mortgage, rates and insurance.

Those costs are deducted from total household income.

The Ministry concluded that 77 percent of first-home buyers had less money left over for food, clothing and bills than the national average for all households.

That figure was marginally less than the 78 percent who were worse off in June 2015, when the previous figures came out.

The Ministry also did a similar calculation for renters.

It found 60 percent were worse off than the average for all households across the nation - an improvement from the 62 percent who were worse off in June 2015.

These figures were a national average, but the Ministry also did a regional breakdown. It found there had been no improvement for first-time home buyers in Auckland, with 82 percent worse off than the national average.

Renters improved slightly in Auckland.

This is the second affordability data release.

It was criticised after the first one for the way it calculated the interest rates on mortgages for first-time buyers.

Speaking today, the ministry said that measure was chosen because records went back a long way.

Ministry general manager of evidence, monitoring and governance Michael Bird told reporters that traditional methodology from the Reserve Bank had been discontinued, and new methodology was being worked on.

He did not expect it to make too much difference to the final results.

The difference between the two measurements is that home owners of all ages have a mortgage rate that is likely to include an average of floating and fixed rates.

But first home buyers desperate to save every cent are likely to focus on fixed rates, which can be lower.

Older people often use floating rates, which make it easier to pay down the mortgage in big chunks.

Mr Bird said the Reserve Bank was working on an interest rate method targeted at first home buyers and this was hoped to be ready for the next report.

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