Demographia's worldwide survey of housing affordability demonstrates clearly enough that since all housing markets studied have similar tax and credit regimes but distinctly different policies on land regulation, the crucial factor in housing affordability is land regulation, not new taxes.
The problem in those markets experiencing serious unaffordability (those in which average house costs around six to seven times the average income) is overregulation of land use. Conversely those cities enjoying more affordable houses (those in which average house costs around three times the average income) is minimal regulations on land use. It costs more than twice an average household's income to buy a house in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch for example, around which "planners" have imposed artifical "urban walls," than it does in Houston, which is unzoned.
An editorial in the NZ Master Bulders' magazine Building Today highlights the problem perfectly with points keenly summarised in the graphs below (click on them to enlarge): over the last five years material costs have increased by twenty-five percent and labour costs by fifty percent (much of that due to the green-plated new building regs). Over that same time consent fees have increased by fifty percent, land costs have doubled, and levies and compulsory contributions levied by council have increased by ten times!
In dollar terms, the biggest increase is in the inflation of land costs due to regulation. In percentage terms the biggest increase is in infrastructure levies and fees. If that doesn't leave you incensed, then you're probably part of the problem. And if you think either are susceptible to interest rate increases then you must be Alan Bollard.
Because of its brevity it's worth reading Master Builders' CEO Pieter Burghout's piece in full (or nearly enough), so here it is:
Housing affordability -- it can be fixed!
...0ne of the recent, big public issues has centred around housing affordability, with nearly everyone jumping on the bandwagon and suggesting how it can be fixed.
...For certain, Kiwis have aspired, and probably always will aspire, to own their own home — their own “quarter acre section of paradise”. And that’s entirely how it should be.
...Unfortunately, the lift in house prices over the past five or so years has put the average home out of the reach of the average Kiwi family, which is not good. […]
...The construction industry, and New Zealand as a whole, benefits from having an affordable housing sector, and we believe there are a number of measures that can be taken to improve housing affordability.
...The main points we made in our submission to the [Select Committee Inquiry on Housing Affordability] are noted below. Our research, within New Zealand and offshore, validates that the key drivers of the housing affordability issue have been, in order of priority:
- rises in land cost,
- rises in local authority infrastructure levies and fees,
- increasing compliance costs, and
- increased labour and material costs.
...And as the prices of new homes have risen, so have the prices of existing homes — because that’s how the market worksl
...If these are the cost drivers behind house price increases, then what are the things that need to be done to fix them and make houses more affordable again?
...First, the biggest factor affecting land cost is supply, and central and local government need to consider what measures can and should be taken to free up land availability, particularly in the main centres.
...Second, the biggest percentage increase in cost has been burgeoning increases in local authority infrastructure levies and fees. These should be better assessed and monitored to ensure they are fair and reasonable — rather than the “laissez faire” approach that applies currently. [It’s worth noting here that the Libertarianz submission on Sandra Lee’s expansion of local government powers pointed out at the time that good objective law allows individuals the right to do anything except that which is specifically prohibited while restraining governments to acting only on that which is specifically permitted, and that Lee’s Local Government Act reverses this important principle. The explosive consequences for the cost of local government that we’ve seen since the Act’s passing are entirely due to that reversal.]
...The construction industry can and should pay for those extra infrastructure costs that it imposes, but it’s not fair that new home owners pay inflated infrastructure levies to subsidise existing home owners who otherwise have lower rates to pay
...And third, the next largest significant increase has been in the area of compliance costs. Some of these costs are reasonable as the industry lifts overall quality levels since the leaky building saga, but some are unreasonable, and steps should be taken to reduce them, particularly:
- consent process delays (consent, inspections and code compliance certificates),
- consenting uncertainty and variability, and
- producer statement uncertainty and variability.
...The final point we made in our submission to the Inquiry is that similar housing affordability issues apply in other countries, and New Zealand should take heed from the remedial measures being proposed in those countries to adopt what is applicable here.
...In nearly all the cases we researched, the three factors we have highlighted — land prices, infrastructure levies and compliance costs — are at the top of the list of things to fix. And so it should be in New Zealand, too.
...The problem won’t be fixed overnight, but it can be tackled, and we strongly encourage the Government to do so.
* * * * *Burghout makes the point abundantly clear, don't you think? A commenter here at Not PC prescribed the solution just a few months ago:
Here's the solution: get rid of fiat money, get rid of zoning, don't fight so-called sprawl and let people free to develop according to demand, and let development "end the divide between rural and urban areas" by having the council-imposed 'Urban Wall' removed.Good luck getting either this Government or the planners responsible for the problem interested enough to care.