GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Housing 101


Yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle in which Phil Twyford was moved sideways is at least some recognition by the Ardern government that their housing policy is failing. So if they’re looking around for some fresh ideas here’s my quick and busy Facebook Fix for Friday suggestions .

1. If you want to stick to the ownership model as the way to house all our citizens, then:
(a) people have to be paid enough so they can save.
(b) the cost of land has to be controlled
(c) we have to stop house ownership being the
major means of wealth creation in our country
(d ) building costs have to come down
(e) bureaucracy -costs have to come down and the consent process
become more efficient.

2. It you want to have the greatest impact on the housing market, then start at the bottom and work your way up. Building lots of social housing would reduce demand for private rentals. Those of you who are advocates of market forces must agree that less demand would mean rents would eventually come down allowing middle income earners to save a bit towards owning a home of their own one day.

3. Stop making home ownership the priority by adopting the broader ideal that everyone should have security of tenure in a warm dry home.

This mind change would open up new possibilities such as long term leasing of affordable properties funded by large financial institutions . We could, for example, insist that a proportion of our Superannuation and ACC Funds be invested in the construction of leasehold properties.

4. Take back the mortgage market from the banks . We used to have one government guaranteed bank (The Post Office Savings Bank) that offered a higher savings rate than any of the private banks and we had the State Advance Corporation that offered mortgages loans at 3% for 40 years so families could build new homes. That”‘rent to own ” strategy worked once, why would it not work again?

5. Hold architectural competitions for social housing . We need our cities to grow up along existing lines of infrastructure and transport , not sprawl out across our arable land. That doesn’t mean we have to stack people up in soulless concrete towers. There are many examples around the world of clever community architectural design in which park, play, vegetable growing and community areas are worked into the plans.

6. Stop destroying existing social housing communities with your neoliberal scorched earth policy.

Yes new housing has to be built in existing social housing areas but selling state owned land to the highest private bidder in order to offset the cost of building new jammed together low income housing , isn’t the way to preserve that most valuable but intangible of things – a community – the thing that provides a sense of belonging in which people do things for each other and not just for themselves.

If you want to have well-being as your goal, then think very carefully before you bulldoze a community into oblivion .

Of course a lot of this would mean the government rejecting the neoliberal economic ideology that Labour itself introduced in 1984 but I’ll leave that for another Friday.

PS If you want to watch my documentary on the housing crisis made prior to the last election you can find it here: and here:

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. Making immigration sustainable doesn’t seem to be a factor in the list, surprise, surprise.

    If there are hundreds of thousands of new people who come yearly that need to be housed in NZ from tens of thousands of new residents, hundreds of thousands of open work permits and millions of tourists as well as all the satellite families operating here, it’s hard to see how NZ taxpayers can keep up with the demand not just housing, everything!

    …especially as our wages are dropping and our spend per person on health and education is going down…

    in spite of the tax bonanza which might not really be real when you work out how much you have to spend to have so many people working on low wages or bringing in their relatives who never paid any taxes. (Note the first 3 years and last 3 years are the most expensive public health years of somebodies life ).

    But hey, we are so generous in NZ and we don’t need any money from overseas folks, we give away our water to offshore firms to profit from as NZer’s our government ideology seems to mean we don’t want money from overseas folks for natural assets!

    Then we import the expanding populations as the new way for middle men to make incredible profits off immigration, to live here so they too can benefit from NZ generosity, that is strangely absent for our own people.

    No wonder Kiwi politicians are so popular these days around the world, we don’t like to regulate to stop overseas nationals profiting here, as it’s against our government ideology. Go Chinese with Cloud Ocean Water, you need the money for your country more than we do! You resell to those struggling people at eye watering profits, NZ government will even give you a list MP seat for a mere $100k donation.

    Apparently while shunning profiting from our natural assets that we give away, we just increase taxes and costs to the local people to try to pay for your country to run! It’s so surprising to find out that people who work, seem to struggle after paying their student loans, income taxes, kiwisaver, ACC, petrol taxes, prescription charges, doctors fees (if you work), rates charges, etc etc… on that job that doesn’t seem to be going up at the same rate as everything else in the private sector!

    Our government for the last 30 years seem so busy trying to meet the world’s needs they don’t have time work out that a $650k house might be unaffordable for a vast majority of your local people these days or a $600 p/w rent, with expansive utilities to pay for water and power on minimum/living or even high wages is most of the wages!

    When you can’t work out that 70k is the top tax bracket but apparently you can’t afford an affordable house on it anymore…. and you need up to $120k income for one.

    Now we have utility poverty fast growing where people can’t afford to pay for basic utilities that are in the COO or private model… or transport… or anything else.

    But wait there are so many subsidies and wages not moving that you may not be much better off working than being on a benefit. That’s what happens when your economy is a low wage economy.

    India is running out of water, fast

    Bottling expansion could see 9 billion litres of pristine Christchurch water sold overseas

    I wonder where we could make more money for NZ citizens, sarcasm, when you look at how Norway made itself rich from oil, you wonder how NZ which is rich in fast depleting natural assets like water, could actually increase our standard of living?

    Instead of China’s companies or other countries that seem to see opportunities that our government doesn’t?

    • Yes it seems basic math doesn’t come into the equation. If 70,000 a year immigrate to our country where do they live?
      The others whom are trying to be accommodated where do they live?

    • It’s a bit distressing if this is one of our foremost public intellectuals.
      I respect most of what he said in the past, but now I realise the guy is nothing of the sort and probably has an agenda not in the interests of kiwis.
      Homelessness is spreading fast to the regions.
      People can no longer find or afford a home.
      Globalisation is fine in theory if costs come down as wages decrease.
      But the opposite is happening in NZ.
      5000 immigrants every year have a net wealth of 5 million.
      That is the issue right there, because that money flows into the hands of the current wealth owners, which distorts the market so kiwis cannot afford to live in their own country unless they earn 120k plus.

  2. Like it Bryan, social housing is the way to go. Many of us were brought up in state houses designed by migrant architects which met some of your priorities. I lived in Taita, mixture of Maori and Pakeha, poor and out of poverty, range of jobs. Very good local schools, quite a few of us went on to university, apprenticeships etc. I am forever grateful growing up in that environment with its strong sense of community.

  3. That is probably not going to happen with a government that was unable to make the case for a broader tax base. That was one big bright and clear signals that this government favors capital over labor.
    That being the case it is imperative that housing supply in NZ is kept tight to maintain value and protect the investment of capital that sits behind it.
    When I say ‘capital’ I mean the mountain of residential mortgage debt which according to Liam Dann sat “at $247.37 billion – 91 per cent of GDP” – in 2018.
    Any government to increase housing supply to the point that made a difference to non-middle NZer’s would be at risk of triggering bank failures if housing values overall declined even a small amount.
    Australia would probably declare war if that came about so no I don’t think there will be progress on housing under this government.

  4. Very succinct outline, Bryan and I agree with every point you have made.

    Conversation about housing is often overridden with discussion points about home ownership, and the result is an iniatiative such as Kiwibuild.

    Your third point, really needs to be hammered home every time housing is mentioned in New Zealand politics. Without secure, healthy, affordable housing many NZers are not able to participate in well balanced and connected lives. Housing impacts on so many areas of wellbeing, and yet discussions are often about how to “enter the housing market”.

  5. Just use the Pt England Development and Enabling Act. The old MoW act 2018. Confiscate land for housing. That’ll motivate the developers to curtail their land banking habit.

  6. We actually cant afford oppen immigration mnow as our pool of cash is dwindling so cut back on imigrsation so we can re-group and catch up to the curve of immigrants flooding into NZ.

    • Saw this post from NZ News on FB, not sure how accurate this is, but some of it seems to ring true!

      Left commentators who still think immigration is some minor agent in neoliberalism and the spread of poverty and inequality, but need to take off the blinkers!

      Nobody is blaming the migrants for coming when our government is encouraging it with no risk control or forward planning of what that really means!

      We have very low refugee quotas in NZ so lets not pretend our government did this for humanitarian reasons!

      Immigration was used to dupe the public in the short term and give money to banks and other mates, and socially change the voting population aka remove poor people from Auckland, to keep the Ponzi going and the neoliberals in power.


      Between 2008 and 2016 there was one man who did more for the Australian economy than any other individual in the world.
      He was not an Australian citizen, or American, British or Canadian.
      Because of his actions, literally, billions upon billions of dollars were created for Australian business, predominantly the banking industry, which created a massive tax windfall for the Australian government.

      The man in question was a New Zealander and he was awarded Australia’s highest honour – The Honorary Companion in the Order of Australia, in recognition for the significant impact he had on the Australian economy.

      That man was John Key.

      The order of Australia is very similar to honours issued to New Zealanders.
      There are those that collect them on merit, for services to their country, and others, ex-politicians, sportspeople, business people and the more dubious category, donations.

      In Australia, like New Zealand, many business people receive Honours for services to the economy.
      These are usually people who build companies which generate income for the government through taxation, thereby lifting the overall standard of living.
      In Australia businessmen like Sir Roderick Carnegie, Douglas Daft, Hugh Morgan, Frank Packer are just a few who have received honours.

      John Key’s contribution was well understood by Australian Treasury, but not unsurprisingly went unnoticed by the NZ media.

      To understand how Key contributed to Australia, first you have to understand what he was up to.
      Like Helen Clark, John Key entered politics to fulfil a personal goal, indeed a boyhood dream, to be Prime Minister. The job title was his motivation, not the welfare of the country, and because of this, the policies implemented during his tenure had one purpose, to keep the National Party popular.

      As Key himself stated, the primary consideration if you want to be popular with the voting public is employment. The general public don’t understand the economy and many aren’t interested, what people care about is having a job. (and if that job is paid for using debt, who cares. )

      Dick Smith, from Dick Smith electronics fame, has written a number of articles about Australian Politicians “cooking the books” by using immigration to fool the public into believing the economy is strong, (search google) and John Key took the very same playbook off the Aussies to run New Zealand’s economy.

      It involves using debt, mortgage debt, and masses of it.

      It works very simply.
      You open the floodgates to immigrants. This creates massive housing and construction demand. It also creates demand and employment across nearly every other sector of the economy, as the new migrants set up home in New Zealand.
      There is a lift in house building and all the necessary trades. This flows through to retail and all the brown and white goods to furnish new homes. You create demand for car sales, supermarket sales, restaurants, takeaways, hairdressers, mechanics etc. Professionals like lawyers and accountants, even doctors and dentists, everyone gets a boost in sales and employment.

      But as Smith has stated, nearly everything is paid for with debt !!

      The first thing new migrants do when they arrive in New Zealand is set up house and to do this they head to the bank to get a loan.
      Between 2008-2016, 20 to 30 billion a year was spent on construction activity ( mainly houses but also infrastructure like supermarkets and gas stations.)
      In comparison, Tourism revenue is about 15 billion a year.
      Mortgage debt over the same period (mostly borrowed off the Aussie banks) went from 133 billion in 2008 to 247.8 billion in 2016.
      So even though migrants bring capital with them, many have little, and debt has been the predominant source of funding.

      Let’s put it another way.
      When Key was elected in 2008 New Zealand’s population was 4.2 million and total mortgage debt was around 133 billion. 8 short years later New Zealand’s population had climbed to 4.7 million and mortgage debt had soared to 247.8 billion.
      So in 8 years we added roughly 500,000 people and nearly doubled mortgage debt! That is truly staggering and no wonder Key was showing up on The Australian Treasury departments radar.

      Why such a huge rise in house prices?
      Under Key house construction rose but according to figures from the real estate institute, property values in Auckland went up 91% over the same period, as massive demand from immigrants and property speculators outstripped supply.
      Everyone was talking about prices and lack of supply, but when questioned, John Key denied time and time again that there was a housing crisis. He could not stop the immigrant borrowing or the economy and his bubble would crash.

      It didn’t stop there.
      With the inflated values on homes, people started dancing along to their banks to borrow on cars, investment properties, renovations, holidays and other luxuries. Again the Aussies were only too happy to lend money, pushed by shareholders and directors keen to keep profits and bonuses flowing.
      By 2016 when Key resigned, ( knowing the public were becoming aware of carhouses, using motels for homeless and overcrowded schools and hospitals) household debt, (excluding investment property) had climbed to a historic 163 billion dollars!

      Bank profits.
      In 2018 as John Key’s legacy of high house prices, massive mortgages and mass immigration continues, the top four Australian banks, ANZ, ASB, BNZ and Westpac reported combined statutory profits after tax of $5128 million.

      That’s $580,000 every hour!
      So every day Australian owned banks are taking massive amounts of interest from Kiwi workers and sending that money to their head offices in Australia.

      $5128 million is almost double the amount of profit the Aussie banks were making pre-John Key.

      It gets worse ( for us, but not for them. )
      New Zealand is littered with Australian owned companies.
      Some of the debt the Aussies are lending us is being sent back to Australia as immigrants set up homes with purchases from companies like Harvey Norman, Bunnings, JBHiFi, Freedom furniture, Target and Country Road etc. The Aussie owned supermarkets are also setting record profits as population growth and debt keep everything going.

      The Australian government couldn’t believe John Key and Bill English.
      Here was a Prime Minister who was underpinning the popularity of his party by using immigrants, borrowing billions of dollars, and at the same time burying his own countrymen ( especially young first home buyers) under record mortgage debt, while using Australian banks in the main to provide funding.
      On top of that, a lot of the debt was being used to purchase goods off Australian companies, sending even more New Zealand dollars offshore.

      It gets worse.
      Because debt can’t be taxed (other than the GST component when it’s spent) the New Zealand government has not been getting the necessary increase in taxation to help fund the massive infrastructure upgrades needed for the (more than)1000 people that have been flooding into NZ every week for the last 10 years. And that is why our hospitals are full, our schools are overcrowded, most councils are in record debt, our health system is underfunded and our welfare system and environment are collapsing.

      New Zealand is closing in on 550 billion dollars of total debt. That’s government, housing, personal, everything.
      (Jacinda Ardern and Winston? made pre-election promises of slowing immigration but the latest figures show she is not. While her intentions seem credible she is struggling to balance her globalisation ideology and is lost dealing with the finance and economics side of her job.)
      Never in our history have we come close to owing so much, and nearly half our current debt was accumulated under John Key.
      New Zealand is just starting to feel some effects of the last 10 years and if Ardern keeps on with immigration she will both mask the problem in the short term and make it far worse in the long term.
      The future impact on our economy, welfare system and the lives of young mortgage holders should not be underestimated. Our current debt position will impact the whole country’s standard of living especially the young.
      If there is a spike in interest rates or a property correction it will become very interesting.

      ( But on the plus side, the Aussies are happy with us. )”

  7. Savenz, you took the words right out of my mouth.
    The majority of New Zealanders can’t dig themselves out of the hole because this, and past governments have never made the New Zealand people the top priority!
    Stop with the water theft for one!
    Water will become/ is already the worlds No.1 commodity! Change the law and take it back.
    Use the treaty of Waitangi and give it to Maori rather than offshore interests. That treaty was in place long before any trade deal with China
    Bryan your ideas for housing are great and should be pursued but I fear most governments will not take the bull by the horns and make the changes needed but amble along until they are voted out and the whole ‘ we can/cant fix it’ scenario starts again…

    If it’s one thing climate change may inact is that things/laws will have to change swiftly in order for survival, and even this maybe too late.
    I dont wish to be all doom and gloom but the lack of respect for our planet and fellow humans is a shocker at present.
    Human kind has its work cut out.

  8. Thank you Bryan for a very succinct appraisal of what needs to be done in the housing area.

    Megan Woods ( Christchurch regeneration ) will be a hard hitter as minister but the elephant of neo liberal economics is still very much in the room.

    And setting some mythical target of how many houses you will build is a complete idiotic distraction to the problems we are grappling with.

    A sign that the previous opposition were never serious about facing this head on from the start.

    I suspect that by the time of the general election the government will be fighting on all fronts to defend the mounting criticism that it has not made a dent in the problem unless it changes its mindset that the market is the cure.

    • @ Mosa, judging by her past record Megan Woods will be a hard hitter AGAINST the poor and for industry profits…

      Way to be cleared for big electricity players to prey on low-income households

      (Thanks for helping with utility poverty and preparing NZ for climate change and natural disasters, Megan, sarcasm)

      Cost Of Solar Already Less Than Grid Electricity In Largest US Cities

      • Thanks SAVENZ for your interesting but frightening blog on the record debt levels and the influence of Key and the others for nine years.

        And these same people want to get back into government to bash us all over again.

        NZ is certainly at risk from such huge massive debt and there only has to be a serious correction and we will burn up in the fire that follows.

        I bet Key will escape unscathed and watch from a distance as the horror show gets started.

        That is what he did with the Irish economy.

        The Australians and their involvement needs serious action but that is not the kiwi way.

        We will never stand up and say enough is enough and tell the Aussies to get the hell out.

        We have been chewed up and spat out and it is all our own fault.

      • Recent news shows that solar and wind are now the cheapest option for new power generation capacity in two-thirds of the world:

        Meanwhile, in the G20, governments are spending $63.9 Billion on subsidies for coal power:

        And we had National and now have Labour, trying their very best to hang on to the past and support shitty polluting industries instead.

        Go NZ, sooooo innovative.

        • Saw an article about a family in a HNZ house which had been through the government’s warm dry housing and apparently still at 9 degrees inside!

          The warm dry housing does actually need the ability to connect to affordable power to heat the house, especially if you are cramming a huge amount of people into small spaces as the moisture from their breathing alone will produce a huge amount of moisture that creates dampness and will mould out the house. It is actually worse in new housing that is air tight as the damp has nowhere to go!

          HNZ ‘warm dry housing’ apparently did not put in a heat pump by the sound of it into the HNZ home. Heat pumps allow fresh air and ventilation while it heats the home, at a lower price than other forms of heating.

          Loads of scams around the insulation program, an elderly landlord was told by his agency he had to remove all the insulation at great cost and redo it, when he went to get a second quote, guess what he was told, that was a mistake and he was already compliant. NZ is becoming a dishonest country with many scams operating around government policy!

          I’d be suspicious if a house that had gone through a warm dry program was somehow still at 9 degrees inside with HNZ!

          A big issue is increasingly people in housing are choosing to NOT heat their homes to save money and therefore a programme to cut housing’s energy costs by solar heating could be a step into solving energy poverty.

          As usual a lot of thought into how other people can bump up construction industries profits to solve the governments housing crisis but zero thought into the practical reality of getting someone to spend their meagre incomes on heating the house which is needed for healthy homes to work!

          The government to solve energy poverty and encourage lower NZ emissions should be taking away the fixed electrical charges which people pay each month before even drawing any power to encourage people onto sustainable power, not the opposite!

          They have largely done away with fixed telephone line rentals for example and actually dropped the price of telecoms while still providing more ways for telecoms to make money from new products.

          Yes solar not so good in winter but overall would cut down the person’s power bills over the life of the home and still encourage renters to heat their home if they knew the power was free. The sun still shines in winter and batteries are getting cheaper to store free power!

          Healthy homes benefits the construction industry without having a way to follow that into a healthier home because for many renters the heating is too expensive and needs the person living in the house to contribute to the investment… which clearly has not been thought through very well.

          … kinda like Kiwibuild another expensive white elephant not solving the housing crisis at great cost to the government and probably negative benefits when you work out that in some cases are giving away 2/3 state house land to run it and demolishing existing state houses.

Comments are closed.