What sort of money is fueling Auckland property boom?

‘Kiwi-guy’ keeps repeating that Chinese “hot money” is driving Aucklands property price inflation.

Labour’s move on Chinese hot money flooding Auckland property market is vindicated by real estate outfits:
“Labour’s data pointing to large numbers of China-based buyers speculating on Auckland residential properties did not surprise Barnett.”
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11487696
The property hustlers know the cat is out of the bag now and are positioning themselves accordingly.

Except that Labour’s data did not determine anything about the number of Chinese-based buyers. Labour pointed to it as probable but provided no data to back up that presumption.

More quotes from that article from Kiwi-guy.

“I believe that overseas investment is good for New Zealand but I believe it should only be in new construction. The overseas investors should have to build new houses, not buy into the existing housing stock. That creates shortages,” Barnett said.

“Then, if overseas investors come to New Zealand and develop houses, they are adding to the housing stock. I think that’s a good thing. But I acknowledge those are not the rules in New Zealand currently,” he said.

The problem with that is Auckland has a shortage of building sections, and the problem their is land price inflation. If overseas investors were forced into new builds only that would do thing to stop land values being pushed up as they would be competing for a limited supply.

“I approve of Inland Revenue’s new rules from October that all buyers must have an IRD number. Those controls are good because property values have traditionally risen over a long term and speculators should pay tax.

“I believe people should be taxed on the profits they make from a business and if it is your business to buy and sell houses, you should have to pay tax on that.”

Speculators are required to pay tax now. If your business is to buy and sell houses then the Government and IRD make it clear that tax is due on any profits. IRD have been increasingly active in enforcing current tax law that covers speculation and trading in property.

Also at NZ Herald is a report on some actual data – Investors head first-home buyers.

New Zealand banks approved three times as many mortgages for investors as they did for first home-buyers over the past year, Reserve Bank figures show.

The Reserve Bank’s lending data showed that in the first half of this year, banks approved 31,123 home loans for investors and 9,890 for first-home buyers.

The average loan size was also larger for investors. Over the past six months, investors were given an average mortgage of $331,427, compared with $317,796 for first-home buyers.

The article looks a bit like a Phil Twyford PR piece as he is quoted prominently. Further down the article a mortagge specialist is also quoted.

Mortgage specialist Bruce Patten, of Loanmarket, said that the figures “matched his experience”, and possibly even underplayed the prominence of investors in the market.

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily at the expense of first home-buyers but it’s certainly in competition with first-home buyers,” Mr Patten said.

The proportion of loans going to investors appeared to be increasing as property speculators rushed to buy or sell in Auckland before lending rules were tightened in three months’ time.

“June was the biggest month … the banks had ever seen in terms of processing mortgages,” he said.

“The numbers are horrendous at the moment. The banks are running at absolute capacity.” From October, investors will need to have at least a 30 per cent deposit if they are buying within the Auckland Council limits – a move which could make the market more accessible for first-home buyers.

This demonstrates risks with trying to alter the market through regulation, the market reacts to impending changes.

What to do about it? Should lenders be forced to loan more to first home buyers and less to investors? Even if it could be done it would probably increase lending risks.

And way down the article a property investor points out the obvious.

Property investor David Han says it is easier for those who already own properties to invest in more.

“Banks require security, when you already own properties it makes it easier to get a loan than someone who has nothing,” Mr Han said.

He said he chose to invest in properties because it was “simple” and “straightforward”, unlike other forms of investments.

“To invest in shares or business, for example, banks will look at income projections, business plans … it’s harder to get the bank’s money,” he said.

“When it comes to property, it’s a lot simpler and easier to borrow money because the property also provides better security for the bank.”

Mr Han said the “toughest part” for any would-be property buyer would always be getting a loan to buy their first property.

Especially for first home property buyers in the inflated Auckland market.

There’s no easy solution to this, unless people wanting to become property owners look to where houses are more affordable to make a start on the property ladder.

A problem that may always remain is that Auckland wants to be a ‘international’ city, so is likely to be expensive to live in, like Sydney, New York, London etc where first home buyers on average incomes are priced out of the markets.

Is the answer to enforce isolation for Auckland and New Zealand and put strict property price controls in place? Eve to deflate property values in Auckland?

I doubt even Labour would go anywhere near there.

But back to Kiwi-guy’s original point – there is still no data on the proportion of overseas investor money going into the Auckland market – and the Reserve Bak mortgage data shows there is a lot of local money going into the market.

There is still no data on the proportion of Chinese based buyers in the market.

And I haven’t seen any evidence that any Chinese money is “hot money”. Perhaps Kiwi-guy can explain what he means by “hot money” and perhaps he can provide evidence of what proportion of house purchases involving “Chinese hot money”.

Encouraging immigrants away from Auckland

National are trying to encourage more immigrants to seek work outside Auckland. The key from their new immigration measures are:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points.
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

These will take effect from November 1.

The National Media Release on this: IMPROVING SPREAD OF SKILLS, INVESTMENT ACROSS NZ

The Government will introduce a package of immigration measures aimed at improving the spread of workers, skills and investment across New Zealand, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says.

“Thousands of people from all over the world are moving to New Zealand because it is a good place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Those people make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s economic growth by providing skills, labour and capital we need, along with valuable cultural and business links.

“New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs and that won’t change,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Currently, many new migrants settle in Auckland, which faces infrastructure challenges as it transforms into a truly international city. At the same time, business owners in other parts of New Zealand often struggle to find enough skilled workers to meet their demands.

“While there are already incentives to encourage migrants to move to areas outside of Auckland, we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors,” Mr Woodhouse says.

New measures to take effect from 1 November include:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points.
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

In addition, from mid-2016 a pathway to residence will be provided for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.

“Unemployment across the Mainland is nearly half that of the North Island, and labour is in short supply,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Most workers in lower skilled jobs must apply to renew their work visas every year. Some of these people have worked hard and paid tax to New Zealand for many years. They are valued at work and in their community, but have no avenue to settle here permanently.

“We’re looking at offering residence to some migrants, who have applied at least five times for their annual work visa. In return, we will require them to commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.”

Mr Woodhouse says the Government is also considering a new Global Impact Visa to attract high-impact entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams to launch global ventures from New Zealand.

“I will announce further details later this year, but we envisage this visa would be offered to a limited number of younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley,” Mr Woodhouse says.

Whether this will spread immigration around the country more will depend a lot on whether enough jobs are available outside Auckland.

Auckland property sales today

I’ve been given some information on Auckland property sales by someone who sold a property at auction today. He gave me prior notice, saying he would be…

…selling a residential investment property valued at the $1million mark. It has been marketed vigorously by a leading agent (not B&T) for three weeks. We have had 70 interested parties through. It is an attractive property. There will be seven that we know of bidding at the auction tomorrow.
Of the 70 through, only one was of offshore Chinese stock. They have indicated that they will not be bidding.
My agent says the the current fuss is a load of codswallop.

And today:

The property was sold for 36% above CV 1 July 2014. There were seven bidders. Only one was non-NZ. This person was a pakeha NZer long term resident in Hong Kong looking for a place to have back in Auckland.

All the bidders were pakeha NZers.

My view is that this successful sale reflects the robustness of the NZ economy in this part of the market, and the low interest rates available from the mainstream banks. For most NZers, this is all good news.

The successful bidder is moving into  a residence they want, and selling their current property to some other NZer that wants it.

This is called the market in most jurisdictions.

There were a total of nine places auctioned, with all similar results to ours. Some non-pakeha bidders, but all plainly NZers. Perhaps supply is a push factor too as all properties were keenly contested.

Sounds like willing Kiwi buyers, happy seller (who gave me his name and contact details).

Salmond explains his Chinese name data analysis

Rob Salmond has posted further explanation for his data analysis of the Auckland property sales on his own Polity blog. His site has been mostly unloadable so I’ll post it entirely here as an alternate source.

How Labour estimated ethnicity from surnames

In response to requests via Twitter, this post walks readers through the general method Labour used to predict the ethnicity of Auckland house buyers from their surnames. This analysis was featured in the New Zealand Herald’s lead story yesterday.

Note that there are two points in this explanation where I will refuse to go into further detail, in order to protect Labour IP. The rest of this explanation has been made publicly in various venues already, so this post does not give away any new secrets.

Part 1: 2014 demographic study

Pre-election, Labour estimated the ethnicity of every person on the electoral roll, via standard Bayesian updating. There are 3.2 million people on the roll. This was one of many demographic estimates we did for everyone in the country. Most serious political parties now engage in this kind of demographic profiling.

To estimate ethnicity, we used public NZ census data on the ethnic distribution of neighbourhoods, and also used data we developed privately about the ethnic distribution of last, middle, and first names in New Zealand. We followed some advice – especially about estimating Asian ethnicities – from prominent US academic studies. I won’t be describing that process further, as that is sensitive IP for Labour.

Using these data, our base method was to estimate people’s ethnicity in a three-step Bayesian analysis:

  • Step 1: Prior: Neighbourhood ethnic distribution. New information. Lastname distribution. Posterior: Neighbourhood / lastname ethnic distribution.
  • Step 2: Prior: Neighbourhood / lastname ethnic distribution. New information. Firstname distribution. Posterior: Neighbourhood / lastname / firstname ethnic distribution.
  • Step 3: Prior: Neighbourhood / lastname / firstname ethnic distribution. New information. Middlename distribution. Posterior: Neighbourhood / lastname / firstname / middlename ethnic distribution.

This process provides a distribution of the likely ethnicities of each person in New Zealand, given their address and their full name.

The distribution covered the probability that a person was each of the following ethnicities, drawn from the level 1 and level 2 ethnic classifications from the New Zealand census: European, Maori, Pacific (not further defined), Pacific (Samoan), Pacific (Tongan), Asian (not further defined), Asian (Chinese), Asian (Japanese), Asian (Korean), Asian (South Asian), Asian (Middle East), other.

For the person-level point estimates, we used the largest single probability. That probability was typically above 0.9.

We refined these estimates further with three tweaks to account for moderate issues we encountered estimating certain ethnicities. I won’t be describing those tweaks further, because IP.

We then tested our predictions against a more-or-less-random sample of around 3,500 known New Zealanders for whom we had ethnicity data. Our best predictions, which we have used since, were 94.8% accurate.

This is an important point. Having developed our method for estimating ethnicity, we then tested it for accuracy against real world data. Only once we were satisfied it was accurate were we willing to rely on it in our work.

Part 2: Applying the predictions to housing data

To apply our general predictions, derived in part 1 above, to the Auckland housing data, we followed a two-step process.

First, we collapsed the 1.4 million Auckland-based ethnic estimates we had by surname only, as that is the only data we had in the real estate data. This allowed us to also partly leverage the earlier electoral roll-based information we gleaned from first names, middle names, and locations as part of our surname-based estimates.

Most of the surnames pointed strongly (pr>0.9) to one and only one ethnicity, although there were some examples with more mixed predictions. It created estimates such as the following (these are the real values):

Name pr(European) pr(Maori) pr(Chinese) pr(other)
JONES 0.938 0.054 0.001 0.007
HOTERE 0.048 0.887 0.000 0.065
LEE 0.481 0.027 0.400 0.092
LI 0.028 0.001 0.957 0.014

Having done that for each individual purchaser, we then summed the probabilities across all 3,922 sales in the dataset. This provided an aggregate estimate, based on the distributions of likely ethnicities in each individual sale, for the overall ethnic distribution of house buyers in Auckland.

In doing this aggregation, we tested various ways of accounting for the fact that some sales had one surname attached, while others had two or even three, accounting for multiple people with diffrerent surnames purchasing a property together. No matter how we cut those observations, the overall pattern remained within 2% of the numbers that appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

It is that overall distribution, not data cherry-picked from any particular sale, that we then compared with various other aggregate datasets about the ethnic distribution of Auckland residents, or various subsets of Auckland residents. Many of those comparisons are detailed in the Herald article and in my Public Address blog post yesterday.

Auckland housing mess

I’ve avoided posting about the whole Auckland housing mess because there’s so many political and invested interests involved and there’s no quick fixes or easy solutions.

More houses are needed quickly but available land is lacking and making more land available has a myriad of obstacles – escalating land prices, land bankers, RMA, treaty obligations and a lot of building resources tied up in Christchurch amongst other things.

Protesters want more state provided houses but they oppose better utiltisation of current state housing land.

Potential building sites are criticised if they have any neigbouring negatives – it’s logical that the unused land is not in prime locations.

Nick Smith seems to be struggling with it all but that’s not surprising, he’s got both opposing MPs and the media looking for every fault and flaw while demanding instant remedies.

I’m glad I live at the other end of the country.

Auckland to replace homes with carparks and playground

A warped Auckland council priority pointed out by Housing shortage…what housing shortage?? with eight properties including blocks of flats are to be demolished.

The NZH is reporting, that Auckland City Council has sent eviction notices to about 40 residents of council-owned properties in a quiet Royal Oak cul de sac..

Reason: so they can be demolished to make way for 44 carparks beside a park!!

And to make way for a playground.

The Herald on Sunday report: Kicked out of home for carparks

About 40 residents of Auckland’s council-owned properties face being kicked out of their homes to make way for 44 carparks.

Residents of a quiet Royal Oak cul de sac in Auckland have been told their council-owned flats and houses backing Monte Cecilia Park could go, possibly by December.

Eight properties – including blocks of flats – will be cleared to make way for 44 carparks to access a new playground, shown on plans for the reserve. Currently park users have to rely on streetside parks.

Letters have been sent to residents in homes and flats in Korma Rd telling them their properties will feature on park maps.

“Inclusion of this property on the map does not imply the public has access to your property but as the land has been purchased by Auckland Council and will become part of the park in the future it has been included in the map,” said the letter.

“We don’t have a firm date for the house removals but it is likely to be at the end of 2015 or during 2016.”

Auckland Council sports and parks manager Mark Bowater said the council had bought homes in Korma Rd between 2006 and 2011 under a strategic plan to develop the park. He said it could be some of the properties would be needed for carparking and a new playground.

A warped strategy.

Mangere Budgeting Services CEO Darryl Evans said losing housing for carparks was disgraceful. “Where are these 40 people going to go? Len Brown and the council need to rethink this one. There has not been enough thought into this decision.”

They could start their rethink by looking at this to see if they think the area is short of park space and play areas:

AucklandHomesforParkAt least if the council includes enough park benches in their strategic park development the people thrown out of homes will have somewhere they can sleep at night.

I guess people will have places to park their cars when they sleep in them. If they have cars.

Treasury Secretary – Capital Gains Tax won’t help Auckland

The Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf was interviewed on The Nation yesterday and said he doubted a capital gains tax would help the escalation in property prices in Auckland.

A CGT isn’t a quick fix and it won’t address the current problems.

Well, just this week the Deputy Reserve Bank Governor, Grant Spencer, is calling for a capital gains tax, or some kind of tax on investment. What do you make of that?

Well, I think what Grant Spencer was talking about was the need for us to address the housing issues in Auckland, and at the heart of the housing issue in Auckland is that we’re not building enough houses, and the Productivity Commission said a few years ago when it looked at this issue that building more houses is the answer. Looking really carefully at our planning regulations is the single biggest thing that will make a difference to how we build— how many houses we build in Auckland.

So you don’t think a capital gains tax or a tax like that is part of the solution?

I’m quite sceptical. If the issue that people are talking about is house prices, London and Sydney have got capital gains taxes and they’ve got similar issues as us. This is a phenomenon that’s actually playing out in large urban areas which are successful, right? And New Zealand is successful, Auckland is successful, so one of the consequences of that, as in Sydney and London and in Vancouver, is the current phenomenon, house prices. But we need to build more houses to actually meet the needs that we’ve got.

So in your view, it’s a supply side problem, then?

That’s the principal issue, is the supply side problem. And it’s not just my view; it’s the Productivity Commission’s view as well.

A Capital Gains Tax would do little or nothing to address the soaring property prices in Auckland.

A CGT (as proposed by Labour last term):

  • It would phase in very gradually so would have little immediate impact
  • It would not tax capital gains already realised
  • It would affect the whole country, not just Auckland
  • It has proven to not limit property inflation in other countries

So it’s a solution to a different problem, the broadening of the tax take. That’s a different debate with varying views on it’s worth.

Capital gains are already taxed on property speculation – where property is bought and sold with the aim of capital gain (according to IRD rules). Capital gains on share trading is also taxable.

Makhlouf is correct saying “building more houses is the answer” – building more houses in Auckland where the biggest demand is. For this to happen more land must be made available more easily. It’s land inflation that’s the problem, and that’s happening due to a shortage of supply and too many restrictions on higher density use.

Video: Interview: Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf

Full transcript (Scoop): Lisa Owen interviews Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf

Peters versus Key, Auckland versus Northland

Winston Peters played Northland versus Auckland and Northland versus Wellington well in the by-election campaign. It looks like he is continuing to try and build a provincial constituency.

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald:

National’s great fear will be the wedge politics Peters deployed with such devastating effect in Northland spreading to other provincial regions. That strategy involved pitting Auckland against the “neglected” regions. In his speech in the general debate yesterday, Peters made it clear he was intent on seeding that in other regions.

Having eked out a political living for so long by relying on the votes of the fringe, Peters is reinventing himself as the friend of the provinces, the farmers, the rural sector. He is putting out a slate as the home of the anti-Auckland vote. “It’s not all about Auckland,” he cried. He is making a clear pitch into National’s provincial heartland.

It certainly worked for him last last month.

And John Key played into his meme on Tuesday in Parliament in the final response to questions from Peters:

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Will he, as Prime Minister, support me, as the member for Northland, to address responses to one of the most serious and most abhorrent issues facing Northland—that of sexual violence?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Actually, the member makes an excellent point—an excellent point—which is that he wants to work constructively on issues that will support Northland. If that is what the member is saying to me today, well, I can say, as Prime Minister,that I am more than happy to work with him on those. I look forward to him supporting the Ngāpuhi settlement and the legislation that will go through there.

I look forward to the member working constructively in areas like Resource Management Act reform so we can see more investment going into Auckland.

Probably a slip but it could well be an Auckland influenced Freudian slip.

Brown eased out, Goff lining up

It looks like Len Brown is being deserted by his own team.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown loses backing of top campaign team

Advisers want Goff/Hulse to run for mayor.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has lost the backing of key members of his campaign team, who are turning their attention to other left-leaning candidates at next year’s local body elections.

The Herald has learned of a meeting last month where key campaign and mayoral advisers delivered the “blunt message” to Mr Brown that he has no chance of winning and should step down.

At least two of Mr Brown’s inner circle have held talks with Mt Roskill MP and former Labour leader Phil Goff about standing for the mayoralty.

There is also support for deputy mayor Penny Hulse, who has expressed interest but said she would never stand against Mr Brown.

It is understood Mr Brown was shaken by the actions of his campaign team and mayoral staff, some of whom are longstanding friends. He has not responded to their request.

All Brown could do was several over the top laughs when interviewed for 3 News – Len Brown tight-lipped on campaign team’s support.– while the currently have the wrong video linked they are displaying an uncomplimentary image:

LenBrown3NewsAnd Phil Goff is lining up to take his place – Goff considers Auckland mayoralty bid

Senior Labour politician Phil Goff says he is giving deep and serious consideration to running for the Auckland mayoralty.

The veteran MP for Mt Roskill, who has served for 15 of his 31 years in Parliament as a cabinet minister in portfolios including foreign affairs, defence and housing, said today he had received approaches “from right across the community” to lead the SuperCity but had yet to make up his mind.

“It’s something that I need to give some pretty deep thought to.”

Phil Goff says he can’t say and won’t say if he has had discussions with Len Brown’s team about standing for Mayor… (reads: yes he has)

It was likely Brown would have difficulty getting sufficient support to stand again.

And Goff has been suggested as a mayoral candidate for Auckland for some time. He would probably do well in a campaign and could make a good mayor.

And Labour get to bring someone new in to their caucus which is overdue for renewal.

It could work out well all round (apart from for Brown of course).

Evicted from ‘her Housing New Zealand home’?

There was what looks like a quite sad story on Stuff yesterday about a young mother with two children whose mother has recently died having difficulty finding somewhere to live in Auckland.

That would be a reasonable story. But there’s aspects of the story that appear to be wrong or misleading.

Housing shortage hits young mum hard

The headline is fair enouigh.

A stoush over state housing tenancy rights has seen a young mother evicted with nowhere to turn.

The Pt England, Auckland resident, who asked not to be named, was given 21 days to leave her Housing New Zealand home of 15 years when her sick mother was moved to a rest home in October. Her mother died on December 5.

The 26-year-old has a 6-month-old baby and a 6-year-old daughter.

Some of that makes it a sad story. But some of it raises questions.

“A stoush over state housing tenancy rights” – but it appears that the 26-year-old didn’t have any state housing tenancy rights. Was she trying to claim rights she didn’t have?

“Her Housing New Zealand home of 15 years” – this women was eleven years old 15 years ago. She is not likely to have been given a state house when she was eleven.

No rent has been paid since October 16 and she was evicted on February 20, her possessions stacked on the lawn because she had nowhere to take them.

No rent paid since October 16.

Housing New Zealand spokeswoman Denise Fink said the tenancy legally ended on October 30.

Her mother moved to a rest home in October. The article doesn’t say it, and implies it’s the daughter’s state house, but it seems obvious this was the mother’s state house and when she moved out the tenancy ended.

The state housing landlord issued an extension while the resident searched for another home but eventually had to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for immediate possession. Eviction was the only remaining option after months of repeatedly visiting and advising the tenant, Fink said.

Now the daughter is referred to as “the resident”. But it seems clear she had been living with her mother in her mother’s house.

So the “stoush over state housing tenancy rights” seems to be a case of the daughter trying to ‘inherit’ her mother’s state house tenancy.

Housing New Zealand gave her three months to find alternative housing, which seems very reasonable. Andn ikt’s very probable that this woman was aware well before the end of October that her mother was moving out and the tenancy would end.

It would be unfair on others on state housing waiting lists for a squatter to queue jump.

And it’s fair to wonder about the circumstances around a woman living with her mother having two children with no sign of a father or fathers.

Has she always lived with her mother? Or has she been away and came back when relationships didn’t work out?

The end circumstance is sad. Housing in Auckland is a crisis situation so that makes things difficult for this young sole parent.

But it’s also sad that people get themselves into circumstances like this and expect the State to hand houses down through the family.

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