The downsides of New Zealand’s inflated house prices

ECOSCOPE

by David Carey and Andrew Barker, New Zealand Desk, OECD Economics Department

In real terms, house prices in New Zealand increased more than in any other OECD country between 2010 and 2016 (Figure 1). While house price increases have supported economic growth through wealth-induced consumption growth, they have also created a number of social and economic problems. Housing affordability has been undermined, particularly for those with low incomes: housing costs for the bottom fifth of households reached 54% of income in 2015, up from under 30% in 1990. Driven by mortgage growth, the ratio of household debt to disposable income now exceeds the level recorded prior to the global financial crisis and is high compared with other OECD countries (Figure 2). This raises financial stability risks. House price increases also undermine productivity growth by inhibiting people from moving into economically successful, highly productive urban areas.

NZ housing 1NZ housing 2

Price increases have been most…

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