New Zealand Leader Focuses on Association between High House Prices and Growth Management

ACT Party leader Donald Brash, who served from 1988 to 2002 as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (similar in function to the Federal Reserve Board) has noted the poor housing affordability in New Zealand and its connection to growth management policies (called by various names, such as "smart growth," "growth management," "compact cities," "densification" "prescriptive land use regulation" and "urban consolidation").

In an August 25 speech Brash said:

"It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the interaction of the RMA, the Local Government Act and local government staff all over the country has produced a major obstacle to improved living standards.

One of the ways this has happened is through the way in which this interaction has pushed the price of housing well beyond the reach of far too many New Zealanders – or more accurately, has pushed the price of residential land well beyond the reach of far too many New Zealanders.

We know, from the annual surveys undertaken by the Demographia organisation, that housing in our major cities is now among the most expensive in the world, relative to household incomes. And why? In large part because too many local governments have quite deliberately limited the supply of residential land.

Arthur Grimes, now chairman of the Reserve Bank, found that the effect of the Metropolitan Urban Limit imposed by the Auckland Regional Council had increased the price of land just inside that Limit by some 10 times compared with the price of land just outside the Limit.

This is absolutely nuts, in a situation where New Zealand is one of the most under-populated countries in the world, and where Auckland is one of the most densely populated cities in the world – in terms of people per square kilometre, Auckland is more densely populated than Vancouver, Melbourne, Portland, Adelaide, Perth or Brisbane.

I’m delighted that one of the first projects of the newly-established Productivity Commission is to look into the affordability of housing."

The finding of a 10-times "across the urban growth boundary value" difference per acre in Auckland, is similar to findings in Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Brash had previously written (the "Median Multiple is a measure of housing affordability, with higher number indicating less affordable housing. It is the median house price divided by the median household income):

"... the one factor which clearly separates all of the urban areas with high Median Multiples from all those with low Median Multiples is the severity of the artificial restraints on the availability of land for residential building"

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