Blog | Do Planning Reforms Spell An End to the Housing Crisis?

Amendments to the Resource Management Act (RMA) promise up to 105,000 houses over eight years [1]. But are these changes going to help end New Zealand’s housing crisis?

By Charlie Matthews

The Changes

Parliament has recently passed the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. The main aim of the changes is to cut the red tape, or the number of rules and procedures, to follow when building houses. Removing such rules is expected to make it cheaper and easier to construct more homes. The changes include allowing townhouses of up to three storeys and up to three homes on almost all residential sites in the nation’s major cities and reductions to boundary limits [2]. Consulting firm PWC estimates that this could lead to 48,000 to 105,000 new houses being constructed in five to eight years [3]. This bill also received broad support in Parliament, with all parties except ACT supporting it. 

Supply and Demand

Despite the continued rise in house prices, the changes may be too late to significantly impact housing prices in the near term. Many experts now believe that the housing supply may have already outpaced demand. As property journalist Greg Ninness noted, “housing supply and demand suggests the number of new homes being consented has been exceeding the demand for new housing created by population growth for at least the last three years[4].

(Stats NZ, https://www.stats.govt.nz/information-releases/building-consents-issued-june-2021)

According to data from Stats NZ, the number of housing consents issued during 2021 was at a record high level and had been trending upwards since at least 2012 [5]. As a result, the housing supply is predicted to increase significantly over the coming years before any of the recent reforms have had an effect. 


(ANZ, https://www.anz.co.nz/about-us/economic-markets-research/property-focus/)

ANZ Bank similarly predicts that housing prices will likely fall over the coming year. However, it is not due to an increase in supply. The bank argues that coming increases to the interest rate will lead to mortgages becoming more expensive, which will mean fewer people can purchase houses [6]. Quotable Value (QV), a housing valuations agency, agrees with ANZ, arguing that housing prices are likely to “return to a more sustainable level” due to the tightening lending conditions [7].

Looking Into the Future

Whilst it is easy to feel that the new changes are redundant in the face of a housing market that is already cooling off, it is essential to keep in mind that an average house in Auckland still costs 35 times the median income [8]. Minor falls in prices as ANZ or QV predict will not be enough to individually bring Aotearoa’s housing prices down to a sustainable and equitable level. For the housing crisis to truly end, there must be a meaningful long-term increase in the housing supply or a decrease in demand. 

These reforms are essential to help contribute to a necessary growth in the housing stock. Especially as demand is unlikely to decrease in the future. For example, both Ninness [4] and QV [7] warn that prices could begin to increase again if immigration levels return to pre-COVID levels. It is also worth noting that given Aotearoa’s high housing prices relative to income, homeownership will continue to remain out of the reach of many without a significant fall in price.

Conclusion

Despite hints that housing prices may already be falling, the recently passed RMA reforms remain a vital tool in ensuring sustainable housing prices into the future. All that remains to be seen is to what extent they can increase the housing supply. 

*PPC’s and the author’s personal opinions are not necessarily illustrated in this article. This article is to inform on the topic.

References

[1]  https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/457924/resource-management-act-amendment-passes-final-reading

[2] https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/300478047/sweeping-townhouse-bill-passes-into-law-with-support-of-labour-and-national-will-force-councils-to-allow-more-homes

[3]  https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/457924/resource-management-act-amendment-passes-final-reading

[4]  https://www.interest.co.nz/property/112958/2021-looks-year-housing-supply-caught-demand-most-places-greg-ninness-reports

[5]  https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/nz-housing-consent-records-broken-nearing-50000-mark-stats-nz/K3AFAYQ52AQL32N43M6W4KVKXA/

[6]  https://www.anz.co.nz/about-us/economic-markets-research/property-focus/

[7] https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/real-estate/127738258/there-are-strong-signs-the-housing-market-is-easing–qv[8]  https://www.economist.com/asia/2022/02/12/new-zealands-housing-crisis-is-worsening

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