Christchurch Housing

By Eric Crampton 06/06/2013


I’d missed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s summary report on Christchurch housing when it came out a couple of months ago.*

The highlights:

  • Total housing stock dropped by a net 11,500, or 6.2% of the ex ante housing stock, from 2010Q4 to 2012Q4.
  • The number of private rentals as measured by tenancy bond remained constant at 39,000 during 2011 and 2012; the prior trend had increases of 1500 per year prior to 2010. 
    Demand for rentals would have increased sharply with destruction of owner-occupied homes, temporary moves by those getting repairs, and incoming construction workers. The largest drops were in tenancies of 2 to 3 bedroom homes.
  • House prices in Christchurch are well above their prior 2007 peak, though Auckland’s prices have ramped up by even more. But Christchurch rental prices have increased by more than Auckland. From August 2010 through February 2013, the average Christchurch weekly rent measured by new bonds lodged** increased by 31%, from $293 to $384. Auckland rental prices increased by 13% over the same period. 
    • While average weekly rents remain higher in Auckland and in Wellington, the 2012 Household Income Survey has household income in Auckland at $94k, Wellington at $93k, and Canterbury at $82k.
  • Rental accommodation at the bottom end of the market have been particularly hit. MBIE notes that MSD reckons $180/week about what beneficiaries can pay in rent; the proportion of private new bonds lodged in that range has halved since the quake. 
    • I’m following up with MBIE for a bit more data on the overall distribution.
  • Social housing units, whether provided privately as bedsits and boarding houses or publicly as Council housing or Housing NZ units, have also dropped substantially. Housing NZ was down 6% as of December 2012; I understand that the government pushed pretty hard to get the Housing NZ units sorted despite some thorny insurance issues. Christchurch Council is down 17%. The low-income tenants here served would not have an easy time finding alternative accommodation. They’re being outbid for private rentals by incoming construction workers and by people seeking temporary accommodation during earthquake repairs. 
  • Holiday parks, which sometimes provide overflow temporary accommodation rather than just catering to tourists, are also overflowing. 
    • I note that Council staff came close to shutting down the South Brighton holiday park when its toilet block failed an engineering code assessment; they backed down when it hit the press and instead are letting it be strengthened.  

The report also warns of a huge increase in accommodation demand set to come in 2014-2016 when an estimated 15,000-25,000 construction workers will be looking for housing at the same time as tens of thousands of home repairs create demand for short-term accommodation.

There’s no way that allowing secondary flats within peoples’ houses would come close to meeting the demand that’s yet to come. But neither is there any reasonable reason to continue banning one of the easiest ways of getting quick temporary accommodation to market.

It will be interesting to see what will happen in 2014-2016.

* I’d linked the report here, but hadn’t gone through it in depth.

 ** This will provide a better indicator of current market prices than would a measure of all existing rents: it shows what prices are faced by those coming to market.