New Zealanders Flock to Live in the Regions
Auckland is the seventh most expensive city in the world to buy a home, and all three of New Zealand’s major cities are considered “severely unaffordable” by the latest Demographia international housing affordability survey. As homeownership becomes an ever more distant prospect for young families, small towns in regional areas are undergoing an unexpected revival.
Reporting for The Guardian, New Zealand correspondent Eleanor Ainge Roy records that following decades of steady population and industry decline, places such as Timaru, Dunedin, Kerikeri and Oamaru are beginning to grow, and property prices are following suit – in Dunedin, where the population has grown by roughly 2000 people a year since the council launched an “aggressive” marketing drive to lure Aucklanders in 2016, the median house price has grown by more than 14 per cent in the past year.
Timaru has been a particular beneficiary of this trend thanks to its 2.4 per cent unemployment rate (the national average is 4.3 per cent), affordable housing and humble, no-nonsense vibe.
Last month a cheeky billboard advertisement for the town popped up beside the Sky Tower in Auckland, appealing to commuters stuck in traffic. “We love our first homes,” the billboard read, showing an image of a classic weatherboard New Zealand villa. “$350,000, median house price.” The median house price in Auckland is more than $800,000.
One-third of Timaru residents are predicted to be 65 or older within 15 years, meaning the little town not only wants younger workers – it badly needs them for its survival.
“Every night we look at the 6 o’clock news and we see that Auckland is bursting at the seams,” mayor of Timaru Damon Odey says. “They need 30,000 more houses every year, more motorways, more tunnels.”
Original article by Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian, April 24, 2019.