Young New Zealanders are constantly being told that they have to buy a house right now, but also that they will never be able to buy a house. Feeling trapped in an existential real estate paradox has now usurped rugby as the ‘national game’.
“Whatever is going to happen, the important thing is that we all panic.”
We’re told that millennials can’t buy houses because they spend too much on avocado on toast (a claim made by an Aussie MP but a concept that certainly struck a chord with this avo addicted writer). On the other hand, we’re told that it’s all the fault of those greedy Baby Boomers. As if somehow that entire generation are an evil gang from an episode of Duck Tales. Housing experts like to inform us that house prices will continue to rise forever, or they like to tell us that it all might come crashing down. But whatever is going to happen the important thing is that we all need to panic.
Mo’ baby, less money, no problems
Contrasting this confusion was a young couple I spoke to with a focussed drive to do everything they can to get into their first home. Te Ao and Raana are 25 and 24 respectively, they have an 8 month old, they’re tired of renting but I am shocked that they don’t seem to be panicking at all. The shift to one income makes saving very hard, but not impossible, and just about every young parent renting has experienced the uncertainty of not knowing if your rent is about to jump up or if the landlord really has provided a dry and healthy home (and how that could affect your children).
“With renting one of our big concerns, especially having a baby,” says Te Ao “is having a dry home. The houses in New Zealand can be not that great. We’ve had good experiences so far, but with the market going up, it can feel like you’re paying off someone else’s mortgage.”
“It can feel like you’re paying off someone else’s mortgage.... We’d rather pay off our own.”
“We’d rather pay off our own.” cuts in Raana. “Our mates have just built their own home and seeing them in there...” Is there a weight off their shoulders? “Fully, it just makes us want to have our own place even more.”
But how do you get to that point? Surely the rhetoric of “eat less avo’s, buy a house” is utter nonsense.
“We know that we will have to make sacrifices for the next two years or so until there are two full time workers in the home.” Te Ao continues. “It depends where you are in life. I know a lot of people still at uni and whatever, they might want to spend their money on the nightlife, shopping and having the latest gears or whatever. When you start having your own family then, for us, we had to change our whole mindset. You know, what are we gonna do, we need a roof over our heads, we need a home.”
“We had to think about someone else, not just ourselves.” adds Raana. “Your mindset changes. You can’t just buy all the new shoes.”
“We used to do that a lot.” laughs Te.
“Go out to lunch.”
“Eating out every week.”
“Coz we could”
“You know, we were just enjoying our time, newly married, both working, no kids.”
The stink eye savings plan
But now these guys are saving a quarter of their income. They’ve left the never-ending lunches of Wellington for the support of family in Hamilton. But even though Hamilton might be cheaper than Wellington or Auckland it’s still at the upper end of their price range. So instead they are looking for anywhere that provides opportunity, setting realistic financial goals and then finding ways to meet them. That’s what I find so impressive about these two, the ability to visualise the end goal and then tackle the obstacles one by one.
“We know that we will have to make sacrifices for the next two years...what are we gonna do, we need a roof over our heads, we need a home.”
I certainly never had a savings plan in my path to buying a house. I was lucky, let’s say privileged, to have supportive family and a wife who knew how to give me the sort of stink eye that instantly prevented impulse purchases of new guitars. There is so much that needs to be done to make housing affordable for the next generation of New Zealand families, but there is something hopeful about meeting one who are focussed on the goal and not letting the societal pressures stand in their way.
- By Samuel Scott