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Three in five homeowners couldn't afford to buy their home at current value

A "remarkable" new figure released on Tuesday from Consumer NZ's sentiment tracker has found that three out of five homeowners would not be able to afford their home at its current value.

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Gemma Rasmussen, head of campaigns and comms at Consumer NZ, says there's a growing divide between homeowners and non-homeowners. Source: Breakfast

After the Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020 house prices were expected to drop but instead the monthly average increased.

Consumer NZ's Gemma Rasmussen explained the new figures on Breakfast.

"So three out of five property owners would not be able to afford the house they live in at its current value - we know home ownership is at a 70-year low and in the last year we saw price increases around 25 per cent, so it really is no surprise that so many people are finding that they're in a home that's worth a lot more than they expected," she said.

"I think what it's saying is we're reaching a point in New Zealand where we're reaching a real divide between the people who have a home and who do not have a home, and if you don't own your own property at this point it's becoming very difficult to get in."

ANZ's chief economist Sharon Zollner said it was a "remarkable statistic" to hear three in five homeowners wouldn't be able to afford their current home.

"It's a really interesting way to look at the data, but it is essentially telling us the same thing as if you look at, say, the median house price to the median income, it's (the ratio) now hit eight and four is considered affordable, so we left that behind in about 2003.

"Now house prices are roughly double what would now be considered an affordable level."

House keys (file picture). Source: istock.com

Zollner said what was once considered an Auckland problem, is now spreading out to the east coast of the North Island, with Tauranga for example facing challenges growing its housing supply.

Rasmussen agreed, saying New Zealand's major cities had seen a high level of growth, but that they're not alone and that it was a nationwide issue.

"There's been pretty consistent growth across all regions of New Zealand," she said.

But it's not just buying, the cost of rent is also on the rise.

"We obviously need more housing, this boils down to a stock issue," Rasmussen said. "There's problems for renters, a lot of people are just getting stuck in a rent cycle and the high level of rent means that it's getting really hard to save for a deposit."

About 40 per cent of renters are paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent, she added.

"That just makes it really hard to get ahead."

Source: Breakfast