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62% of NZers cannot afford a home in their local market

Auckland, 2 December 2019 – More than three out of five New Zealanders (62%) believe they cannot afford to buy a home in their local property market, according to the latest Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor. Just 38% of respondents said they think they could afford to buy a home, compared to a 42% global average. Housing remains the top issue facing New Zealanders.

The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor asks more than 600 New Zealanders to select from a list of 20 the three most important issues facing the country and the ability of the country’s political parties to best manage the issues. The Issues Monitor has been running since February 2018.

The top three issues facing New Zealanders are housing and cost of housing, followed by poverty and inequality with healthcare / hospitals and inflation / cost of living in third equal position.

Highlights from the key findings include:

Climate change and the environment are trending up in the list of issues, sitting in 6th and 7th position respectively. The Green Party is seen as the party best suited to manage these two issues. In Australia, environment hit top position (equal with cost of living) for the first time.
• In April, soon after the March 15th terror attacks, Labour’s perceived capability to manage key issues increased significantly across each of the 20 issues measured. Since then the Issues Monitor shows that results have returned to pre-terror attack levels across the majority of issues.
• Perceptions of the current government’s performance also increased significantly after the terror attacks but have now returned to previous levels.

Key issues facing New Zealanders:
Of the 20 issues measured, housing / cost of housing remains the top issue by a great margin. Two in five (42%) New Zealanders consider this to be a top issue. Housing has been the top issue since the survey began in February 2018.

A further question was asked to understand perceptions of housing affordability. Just 38% said they thought they could purchase a home in their local property market. This puts New Zealand below the global average of 42% and Australia’s result of 41%. Those aged under 35 years are least likely to think they would be able to afford to buy a home in their local market at just 29%. Those on low incomes (less than $50,000) are also least likely at just 25%.
We then asked a further question to establish optimism for the future of housing affordability. Of those who did not believe they can afford to purchase a home in their local market, 61% believe this is a permanent situation, not one that could improve in the future.

Poverty / inequality is the second highest ranking issue with 29% considering it as a top issue. It has been in the top 5 issues since measurement began.

Healthcare / hospitals and inflation / cost of living are the third biggest issues, both with 25% selecting these in their top three issues facing New Zealanders, with crime / law next at 23%.

Although climate change sits just outside the top five, being the sixth biggest issue with 22%, it is increasing overtime. One year ago, in late October 2018, just 14% selected it as one of the biggest issues. Environment pollution / water concerns have also increased to 20% from 12% a year ago. This is the seventh biggest issue.

When comparing the top-5 New Zealand issues with those of Australia, Australia has also seen an increase in environment, which is now their top concern equal with the cost of living. Other common issues between the two countries include cost of living (#1= issue in Australia with 32% vs #3= issue in New Zealand with 25%), healthcare (#3 issue in Australia with 30% vs #3= issue in New Zealand with 25%), and crime (#5 issue in Australia with 24% vs #5 issue in New Zealand with 23%).

There were, however, notable differences with the other top issues for the two countries including:

Housing is twice as concerning in NZ (42% – #1 issue) than in Australia (20% – #6 issue).
Poverty is more concerning in NZ (29% – #2 issue) versus Australia (17 – #7= issue).
The economy is more of a concern in Australia (27% - #4 issue) than in New Zealand (12% – #10= issue).

Although perceptions of the current coalition government’s performance peaked in the previous Issues Monitor (6.6 out of 10 in April 19), they have returned to levels consistent with previous months (5.7 out of 10).

Labour is viewed as the political party that is most capable of managing all the top-5 issues facing New Zealanders today, however, in terms of crime, an almost equal proportion of New Zealanders consider National to be most capable (31% Labour Party versus 29% National Party).

The Green Party is seen as the most capable party to manage climate change (36% Green Party vs 23% Labour Party and 11% National Party) and environmental pollution / water concerns (38% Green Party vs 24% Labour Party and 15% National Party).

Commenting on the Issues Monitor, Carin Hercock, Managing Director, Ipsos New Zealand, said: “The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor is a survey we undertake regularly to understand what is important to New Zealanders. Housing continues to be the #1 issue facing New Zealander’s today and despite a small improvement on the same period last year (45%), Housing remains one of the top three issues for 42% of New Zealanders. This contrasts starkly with Australia where Housing as an issue sits at #6 with just 20% of Australians recording Housing in their top 3. With a clear majority of New Zealanders stating that they would not be able to afford to buy a home in their local market we do need to ask what impact that is having on our sense of community in New Zealand. Housing was the #1 issue just after the last election and it appears likely to remain the #1 issue as we head into election year 2020.”

Amanda Dudding, Research Director, Public Affairs, Ipsos New Zealand, added: “It’s interesting to see climate change is now the top equal issue in Australia. In New Zealand we’ve seen the issue of climate change increasing over time since mid-2018. Environmental pollution and water concerns are also increasing, especially when we compare current results with those from this time last year. When you look at the views of different age groups, there is very little difference, this is not being driven by our young or old people, it’s a concern across all New Zealanders.

At Ipsos we believe understanding New Zealanders’ perceptions around these issues provides an important social context, so we will continue to monitor changes over time.”

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