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Microsoft throws $US500 million at Seattle unaffordability, and mayors vow to cut red tape

Tech giant Microsoft Inc said last Wednesday it would throw $US500 million at reducing housing unaffordability around its hometown of Seattle, and mayors around the region listed ways they’d make development easier.

In short, Microsoft president Brad Smith & chief financial officer Amy Hood said in their corporate blog, too few houses had been built to meet Seattle’s growth: “Since 2011, jobs in the region have grown 21%, while growth in housing construction has lagged at 13%.This gap in available housing has caused housing prices to surge 96% in the past 8 years, making the Greater Seattle area the 6th most expensive region in the US.”

[According to the Demographia survey of affordability out today, Seattle’s median multiple – median house price divided by median household income – was 5.6 in 2018, compared to Auckland’s 9.0.]

“Median income in the region hasn’t kept pace with rising housing costs, increasingly making it impossible for lower- & middle-income workers to afford to live close to where they work.”

The Microsoft duo said the company had worked with housing statistics business Zillow and the Boston Consulting Group & Challenge Seattle to learn more about best practices. They said the gap between job growth & housing growth had been even greater in the suburban cities around Seattle than in Seattle itself.

“We’ll put this money to work with loans & grants to accelerate the construction of more affordable housing across the region. We will invest:

  • $US225 million at lower-than-market rate returns to inject capital to subsidise the preservation & construction of middle-income housing. These investments initially will be made in 6 cities east of Seattle & Lake Washington: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton & Sammamish
  • $US250 million at market-rate returns to support low-income housing across the entire King County region, and
  • $US25 million in philanthropic grants to address homelessness in the greater Seattle region.

The Microsoft duo added: “We believe the state government has an important role to play as well. In the state legislative session that began this week, we’ll encourage the legislature to support the private sector by making additional housing investments and through policy changes to preserve & develop affordable housing.

“These recommendations include a $US200 million appropriation to the Housing Trust Fund to expand support for very-low-income individuals & families, which would almost double the investment from the last budget cycle. In addition, we will support condominium liability reforms, extending the multifamily tax exemption (MFTE), and new incentives for local communities to enact more efficient land use policies.”

The mayors’ support list

9 mayors in King County, representing communities outside Seattle, issued a statement in support: “To address this problem, we intend to do our part to break down barriers and provide incentives to substantially increase the supply of quality housing for all households in our community. We will consider opportunities to advance housing affordability in the region, including but not limited to:

  1. Making available at no cost, at deep discount, or for long-term lease, under-utilised publicly owned properties
  2. Updating zoning & land use regulations to increase density near current & planned public transit
  3. Reducing or waiving parking requirements in transit corridors to help reduce overall development costs
  4. Reducing or waiving impact & other development-related fees
  5. Streamlining & accelerating the permitting process for low- & middle-income housing projects to improve developer certainty
  6. Providing tax exemptions & credits to incent low- & middle-income housing development, and
  7. Updating building codes to promote more housing growth & innovative, low-cost development.

“We believe that these efforts, combined with the support of the greater community, will make our region more affordable for all households and will advance quality of life throughout the region.”

Microsoft blog, 16 January 2019: Ensuring a healthy community: the need for affordable housing

Attribution: Company release.

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Auckland & Tauranga rank among internationally least affordable again in Demographia housing survey

Auckland has again ranked among the least affordable cities internationally in Demographia’s annual international housing affordability survey, out today, but Tauranga again beats it to take the rap as least affordable of the 8 New Zealand centres in the survey.

7 of the New Zealand centres grew less affordable – Christchurch was unchanged.

Auckland’s median multiple was 9.0 at the survey date of September 2018, compared to 3.9 for the whole of the US, 4.3 in Canada, 4.6 in Singapore and 4.8 in Ireland & the UK. The 5 major markets of Australia averaged out at 6.9 and Hong Kong was on 20.9.

The median multiple Demographia authors Wendell Cox (US) & Hugh Pavletich (NZ) use for their survey of middle-income housing affordability is the median house price divided by the median household income.

The authors wrote that prices in some of the most unaffordable markets had moderated, prices had stabilised in some and declined in others, but none of the price declines had been sufficient to materially improve housing affordability: “These developments could, in the long run, simply be further indication of the price volatility exhibited associated with stronger land use regulation.”

Demographia ranked 29 major markets as severely unaffordable, including Auckland, all 5 in Australia, 13 of the 55 in the US, 2 of 6 in Canada & 7 of the 21 in the UK.

9 major housing markets, all in the US, were ranked as affordable.

I’ve had malware issues this morning in accessing the Demographia website, leaving you with this one table.

New Zealand markets with median multiple (2017 in brackets), median price, median household income and their rankings – international affordability, major market ranking (Auckland only) and NZ ranking:

Auckland: 9.0 (8.8), $845,000 ($836,700), $94,400 ($94,800); rankings 301 (281), 85 (84), 7 (7)
Christchurch: 5.4 (5.4), $447,000 ($448,300), $83,300 ($83,700), 240 (226=), 2 (2=)
Dunedin: 6.1 (5.4), $412,000 ($363,300), $67,100 ($67,400), 264 (226=), 3 (=2)
Hamilton-Waikato: 6.8 (6.5), $551,000 ($530,100), $81,400 ($81,800), 278 (257), 6 (6)
Napier-Hastings: 6.7 (6.1), $449,000 ($409,100), $66,700 ($67,000), 274 (253), 5 (5)
Palmerston North-Manawatu: 5.0 (4.5), $310,000 ($278,000), $61,700 ($62,000), 224 (181), 1 (1)
Tauranga-Western Bay of Plenty: 9.1 (8.9), $623,000 ($617,000), $68,800 ($69,100), 302 (282), 8 (8)
Wellington: 6.3 (5.5), $577,000 ($508,700), $91,700 ($92,100), 268 (231), 4 (4)
Median market: 6.5 (5.8)


Earlier stories:
22 January 2018: After 14 years, 3 more years’ income needed to buy same house in Auckland
23 January 2017:
Auckland still near top of Demographia’s international unaffordability table
25 January 2016: Demographia ranks Auckland severely unaffordable

Attribution: Demographia.

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Brewery’s former head office, 2 retail & commercial units sold

Bayleys agents have sold Lion Breweries’ former head office building in Newmarket (more recently known as BUPA House, pictured), a Symonds St retail unit and a commercial unit on The Strand.



105 Symonds St, unit 5:
Features: 69.5mretail unit occupied by Portuguese bakery on 6-year lease, 3 3-year rights of renewal 
Rent: $50,388/year net + gst with 2% annual increases
Outcome: sold for $790,000 at a 6.38% yield
Agents: Millie Liang & Quinn Ngo

Isthmus east


5 Kingdon St:
Features: 1191msite zoned metropolitan centre, 4712m10-level commercial building constructed in the mid-1980s as Lion Breweries’ head office; 6 office levels, ground-floor restaurant, parking for 72 cars over 3 levels accessed off Suiter St; fully leased to 7 tenants & four sub-tenants, weighted average lease term close to 3 years
Rent: $1,485,570/year net + gst
Outcome: sold for $19.75 million at a 7.52% yield to a developer planning to retrofit the building & upgrade office accommodation
Agent: Layne Harwood


77 The Strand, unit D:
Features: 63m2 ground-floor premises in 2-level multi-unit complex, 2 parking spaces; polished concrete floor & high stud with self-contained bathroom
Outcome: sold vacant for $483,000
Agents: Scott Kirk & James Were

Attribution: Agency release.

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Cromwell reit spends $647 million to add 23 European properties to portfolio

Brisbane-based ASX-listed Cromwell Property Group completed an $A228 million ($NZ242.5 million) capital-raising at the start of this month intended largely to contribute to its share in a 23-property investment by the European trust it launched in 2017.

For decades, Australia & New Zealand have been targets for limited investment by European & North American investors & funds, and Cromwell is an investor in New Zealand through its 50% ownership of New Zealand property funds manager Oyster Property Group Ltd.

Northbound investment by Australian interests is a burgeoning trade, done through a variety of Australian & offshore vehicles and aimed at various sectors, including student accommodation, industrial, retail & office stock.

Cromwell’s European investment is more complicated than its New Zealand investment – Cromwell of Australia listed the Cromwell European Real Estate Investment Trust on the Singapore securities exchange in November 2017, holds a 35.3% interest in the trust and manages the European portfolio on behalf of the trust.

Cromwell sought $A210 million ($NZ223 million) through an entitlement offer at the end of November, closing at the start of January, aiming to raise a total $A300 million ($NZ319 million), including commitments received from major securityholders, and pulled in $A228 million ($NZ242.5 million) from other investors. Of that, $NZ133 million (€79 million) has gone to pay the Australian group’s share of a simultaneous capital-raising by the Singapore-listed reit, and some to reduce the Australian company’s gearing from 37% to between 30%-33%.

The Singapore-listed reit’s 23-property acquisition is costing it €384 million ($NZ647 million), to be partially equity funded through a €224 million ($NZ377 million) equity-raising.

The new European assets are in 3 portfolios – 11 properties in Finland, 5 properties in Poland & the Netherlands, 5 in France & 2 in Italy.

10 of the Finnish properties, acquisition now settled, are in Helsinki, one in the rapidly growing regional hub of Kuopio, a university city in the east of Finland, with a total valuation of €116.8 million ($NZ197 million), and 61972m² lettable floor area.

Cromwell chief executive & managing director Paul Weightman said: “The success of CEREIT has facilitated the ongoing transition of our European assets under management to more permanent sources of capital. About 45% of European assets under management will be long-term in nature following the completion of CEREIT’s recently announced acquisitions.”

Cromwell’s head of Nordics, Tomas Beck, added: “We are currently operating in a buoyant office market in Finland, supported by strong domestic demand, job growth & rising consumer confidence. These conditions have put upward pressure on rents in high quality, well located buildings that offer efficiency & connectivity.”

As of June 2018, Cromwell had a market capitalisation of $A2.2 billion, a direct property investment portfolio in Australia valued at $A2.5 billion ($NZ2.7 billion) and total assets under management of $A11.5 billion ($NZ12.2 billion) across Australia, New Zealand & Europe.

Cromwell European REIT (website open only to Singapore residents)
Cromwell Property Group

Attribution: Company releases.

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North Head transfer completes maunga authority control of cones

Legal administration of Maungauika/North Head transfers from the Department of Conservation to the Tupuna Maunga o Tamaki Makaurau Authority today, the last of 14 transfers begun in 2014 under the Nga Mana Whenua o Tamaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act.

The other 13 tupuna maunga (ancestral mountains), which Auckland Council had administered, returned to the 13 iwi/hapu of Tamaki immediately as part of the co-governance regime between the Tamaki collective of iwi/hapu & the council, but administration of Maungauika remained with DoC as an interim step.

The authority is a co-governance body with 6 iwi representatives, 6 Auckland Council representatives & one non-voting Crown representative. The authority is independent of Auckland Council and has its own decisionmaking powers & functions.

Authority chair Paul Majurey said the final transfer was an important step in integrating the management of all maunga in Tamaki Makaurau.

“In 2016 we adopted the tupuna maunga integrated management plan to care for & protect the maunga of Tamaki Makaurau in a cohesive way. DoC have helpfully been aligning their management of Maungauika to the values in the plan. The transfer now allows a focused effort on restoring Maungauika consistent with the other maunga. It enables these special places to be treated as a collective whole and forever valued, restored, protected & managed as the taonga tukuiho (treasures handed down the generations) that they are.”

Parking at Maungauika, in Devonport, is located halfway up the mountain, and the tihi (summit) is already a pedestrian space. Mr Majurey said: “We know that Maungauika will be a focal point for a large number of visitors around the America’s Cup event in March 2021, so we will be looking towards management initiatives to ensure visitor safety & enjoyment of the maunga during this high profile event.”

Photo: Maungauika (North Head), with the Waitemata Harbour & Auckland central city in the background. Photo: The Tupuna Maunga o Tamaki Makaurau Authority.

Link: Tupuna Maunga o Tamaki Makaurau Authority

Attribution: Tupuna maunga authority.

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Bank’s Henderson centre among 4 commercial sales

Ray White Commercial agents have sold 4 properties around Auckland, 3 in conjunction with other Ray White agencies. One is on Newmarket Broadway, 2 are in Grey Lynn and the biggest, ASB Bank’s north-west regional centre, is in Henderson.

Isthmus east


25 Broadway:
Features: 193m² office space 
Rent: leased to Fuse Creative Ltd for $95,000/year net + gst, 3-year lease with 2 3-year rights of renewal
Agents:Conrad Traill & Natasha Christensen

Isthmus west

Grey Lynn

36 Douglas St:
Features: 259m² character villa zoned business mixed use
Outcome: sold for $1.65 million
Agents: Conrad Traill & Natasha Christensen (Ray White Commercial) & Ray White Damerell Group Ponsonby

24A Williamson Avenue:
Features: 356m² site zoned mixed use urban, 201m² street-level warehouse, 2-bedroom loft apartment with rooftop terrace & deck, 5 parking spaces
Outcome: sold for $3.45 million
Agents: John Davies & Natasha Christensen (Ray White Commercial) & Ray White Damerell Group Ponsonby



288-290 Lincoln Rd:
Features: 1871m² site, 1504m² building, ASB West Auckland regional centre on 9-year lease running until January 2022
Outcome: sold for $10.15 million at a 6% yield
Agents: John Davies & Nigel Ingham (Ray White Commercial) & Ron Yang (Ray White City Apartments)

Attribution: Agency release.

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Riverhead development site & Glen Eden commercial building sell

Bayleys agents have sold a Riverhead property with a development scheme plan in place and a Glen Eden commercial building with vacant tenancies.


Glen Eden

190 West Coast Rd:
Features: 448m² corner site opposite train station with frontage also to Glen Mall Place, zoned town centre; 361m² 2-level commercial building, 4 parking spaces; 71m² of retail space leased to hair salon until October 2019, 2 vacant tenancies
Rent: holding income of $16,880/year + gst; estimated potential income fully leased $85,000/year net + gst
Outcome: sold for $1.165 million
Agents: Tony Chaudhary, Janak Darji & Amy Weng


1064-1068 Coatesville-Riverhead Highway:
Features: 4663m² site in 5 titles zoned business mixed use; scheme plan completed for live/work development
Outcome: sold to a developer for $4.957 million at $1063/m²
Agent: Mike Adams

Attribution: Agency release.

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December home sales dive – but medians rise

House sales in December fell to their lowest level for that month in 7 years, the Real Estate Institute said today.

The 5330 sales were down 12.9% from December 2017’s 6117.

Auckland sales for the month were the lowest in 10 years, down 24.3% to 1336 (1765 in December 2017).

Outside Auckland, sales were the lowest December tally in 5 years. The 3994 sales were down 8.2% from December 2017’s 4352.

Sales declined from the previous December in 12 of the institute’s 16 regions.

The institute’s response was to try convincing vendors that the market is falling and to drop their asking price to get a sale. Institute chief executive Bindi Norwell said: “With national listing levels down 11.3% in November and 13.3% in December, it’s not entirely surprising that December was a quiet month in terms of sales volumes. However, what we’re hearing is that part of the lower sales volumes can also be attributed to some vendors’ understanding of the value of their home. A realistic approach to market value may help vendors sell their property in a more reasonable timeframe.” 

The median sale price rose in every region and hit a new record in the Bay of Plenty, rising 2% to $610,000 ($598,000).

Median house price, December 2018 (November 2018 & December 2017 in brackets):
Auckland: $862,000, ($860,000 in both November 2018 & December 2017), up 0.2%
National: $560,000 ($579,000, $551,750), down 3.3% from November, up 1.5% from December 2017
NZ ex-Auckland: $480,000 ($485,000, $451,000), down 1.0% from November, up 6.4% from December 2017

Volume sold, December 2018 (November 2018 & December 2017 in brackets):
Auckland: 1336 (2133, 1765), down 37.4% from November, down 24.3% from December 2017
National: 5330 (7514, 6117), down 29.1% from November, down 12.9% from December 2017
NZ ex-Auckland: 3994 (5381, 4352), down 25.8% from November, down 8.2% from December 2017

House price index (December 2017 in brackets):
Auckland: 2822 (2872), down 1.7%
National: 2740 (2653), up 3.3%
NZ ex-Auckland: 2672 (2473), up 8.0%

Median days to sell (December 2017 in brackets):
Auckland: 39 (34)
National: 35 (32)
NZ ex-Auckland: 33 (31)

Auctions (December 2017 in brackets):
Auckland: 260, 19.5% of all sales (462, 26.2%)
NZ: 584, 11% of all sales (836, 13.7%)

The breakdown of sales in price brackets and their share of the market (December 2017 in brackets):
$1 million-plus:  687 (852), 12.9% (13.9%)
$750-999,999: 834 (872), 15.6% (14.3%)
$500-749,999: 1596 (1730), 29.9% (28.3%)
Under $500,000: 2213 (2663), 41.5% (43.5%)
Total sales: 5330 (6117)

Median prices & volumes around Auckland on old council boundaries for December 2018 and, in brackets, November 2018 & December 2017:
Auckland region: $862,000 ($860,000, $860,000), 1336 (2133, 1765)
Auckland City: $986,000 ($950,000, $915,000), 414 (704, 605)
Franklin District: $680,000 ($702,000, $710,000), 66 (89, 88)
Manukau City: $830,000 ($835,000, $840,000), 275 (398, 336)
North Shore City: $980,000 ($1,050,000, $1,108,000), 213 (319, 278)
Papakura District: $685,000 ($650,000, $700,000), 52 (97, 68)
Rodney District: $855,000 ($865,000, $812,500), 120 (207, 149)
Waitakere City: $828,000 ($773,000, $780,000), 196 (319, 241)

Attribution: Real Estate Institute.

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Corrected: Wiri sale one of 4 for Colliers

The Trust Investments Property Fund has ended up with ownership of HEB Construction Ltd’s headquarters building in Wiri at a slightly higher price than it negotiated early last year after the rental figure was finalised, taking its portfolio of commercial properties to $150 million.

It was one of 4 recent transactions by Colliers agents. The others were in Christchurch, across the road from the casino in Hamilton and in Whakatane.



Corrected: 105 Wiri Station Rd:
Features: 1.46ha heavy industrial site with frontage also to Plunket Avenue, 6317m² building, 4993m² of medium to high stud warehousing, the balance a mix of modern & older-style offices, 88 parking spaces, formerly occupied by Honda NZ Ltd, refurbished early this year before HEB Construction Ltd occupied it on a 15-year lease
Rent: the lease has annual 2.5% rental increases with reviews to market every 5 years (cap & collar mechanism)
Outcome: sold vacant for $9.85 million in February, contract signed last April by the Trust Investments Property Fund and settled in November on completion of the refurbishment at $20.12 million, based on the final rental
Agents: Greg Goldfinch, Hamish West & Ben Herlihy

South Island



4 Russley Rd, corner Yaldhurst Rd; & Rangiora, 300 High St, corner King St:
Features: 2 Caltex service stations up for sale & leaseback to Z Energy 2015 Ltd at auction on 10 December; Russley Rd: 4249m² site, 383m² floor area, leaseback term 10 years 1 month + 3 5-year rights of renewal from 28 February; Rangiora: 1987m² site, same renewal rights & lease terms
Rent: Russley Rd: proposed rent $310,490/year net + gst + opex; Rangiora: proposed rent $190,035/year net + gst + outgoings; both 2%/year fixed growth, market reviews at end of initial lease term
Outcome: both sold to an Auckland buyer – Russley Rd for $5.3 million, Rangiora for $3.335 million
Agents: Mark Macauley & Will Franks

South of the Bombays

Bay of Plenty


106 Commerce St:
Features: 1553m² site, 1013m² 2-level office building, 2 long-term tenants, 26 parking spaces, seismic rating 100% new building standard
Rent: $204,600/year net + gst
Outcome: sold for $2.6 million, at a 7.87% yield
Agents: Rob Schoeser & Simon Clark



331 Victoria St:
Features: 364m² site, 710m² 2-level building opposite SkyCity & the new Riverbank Lane retail development, seismic rating 51% new building standard
Rent: $95,000/year gross + gst
Outcome: sold for $1.13 million at a 7% yield
Agents: Justin Wang & David Palmer

Attribution: Agency release, Trust Management.

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It’s a buyer’s market, says Barfoots chief

Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson acknowledged last week – on the agency’s latest residential sales figures – that it’s become a buyer’s market.

“The Auckland property market ended the year edging towards its first decline in prices for 10 years,” he said.

His analysis is supported by Quotable Value Ltd’s monthly index release, out today, which showed the Auckland index just positive (by 0.4%) in the 12 months to November, but has slipped to 0.4% negative in the 12 months to December.

“In the past few months the tide has turned towards it becoming a buyers’ market,” Mr Thompson said. “The overriding market sentiment at present is indecision as to the direction the market is heading.

“A range of factors contributed tomarket uncertainty at year end. These included non-New Zealand residents being restricted from buying certain categories of property, the reported major decline of property prices in the major Australian cities, the potential for capital gains to be applied to investment properties in the future and concerns over world economic stability, in part caused by the trade friction between the US & China.

“The sales data for December masks that trend, but it shows up clearly in the year-on-year figures between 2018 & 2017.

“In December, the point was reached where it was vendors that were prepared to meet the market who were achieving a sale while those holding out for their asking price were not.”

Mr Thompson said residential sales rose 8.1% from 2017 to 2018, but the median price fell 0.8% to $836,792 in 2018 – “the first time the median price has fallen below that for the previous year since 2008, the year the impact of the global financial crisis affected house prices.

“The average 12-month sales price for 2018 at $929,910 is up on that for 2017, but by only 0.4%. Earlier in the year it was tracking between 1-2% above 2017’s average price.”

While the focus has moved from constant price rises, Mr Thompson said the standout feature of 2018 for him was in the under-$500,000 price category, where sales rose from an 8.9% share ofthe agency’s total in 2017 to 11.4%: “This increase can be linked directly to the higher number of apartments, terraced housing & townhouses hitting the market, giving first-time buyers & those on limited incomes far better access to property.”

He said the 555 new listings in December were in line with a year earlier, and the 4194 properties on the agency’s books at year end were also similar: “It will ensure that we start the year’s trading with buyers being offered the highest level of choice for 7 years.”

The figures:

Related story today:
Auckland house price chart turns from just-positive in November to just-negative

Attribution: Agency release.

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