Leah Kahukura and her daughter Arairiana, 4, from Napier. Photo / Paul Taylor
Leah Kahukura and her small family get roughly $1000 a week in the hand to pay their bills.
Ten years ago, that would have been enough to be financially comfortable. Now, as they’ve discovered first-hand,
they’re an economic shock away from genuine hardship.
It’s a situation that more families are facing in Hawke’s Bay as rental costs and the challenge of the housing market bite, financial experts say.
Kahukura lives in Napier with her partner and their 4-year-old daughter Arairiana.
She and her partner had been working for some time to save a deposit for a house when last year she lost one of her two jobs due to Covid.
Then the November floods hit Napier and they lost two cars and all of their furniture. Their insurance cover was so thin that they ended up with a payout of just $70.
Kahukura said it was devastating.
“We lost both of our cars, one of which we were borrowing from my mum (the other we were paying off), all of our furniture and majority of our possessions – a lot of irreplaceable things,” she said.
The house they were renting was also badly water damaged; luckily they had a good relationship with their landlord, who helped them find another rental.
This all happened shortly after Kahukura lost one of the two jobs she was working while studying full time, not long after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Now Kahukura and her partner earn just under $1100 per week. Both are on more than the minimum wage.
She said her family budgets meticulously to get by week to week but she’s lucky to have even $10 in her pocket at the end of the week.
The mother of one said buying a house had always been the main goal and dream for her and her partner, but since the floods, house prices in the region had soared and now she can’t see it happening in her lifetime.
THE WEEKLY BUDGET
Leah’s weekly wage goes on:
Phone bill: $10
Arairiana’s extra-curricular activities and food for her rabbit: $15
Kahukura said other, unanticipated costs usually pop up through the week, but she tries to put a further $20 away into savings.
“This never stays in there long as this is what we try to use before touching our credit card, so if we need to go to the doctor’s or something we use this account first,” she said.
Her partner’s wage goes on:
Flood-damaged car: $90
Paying off new car: $50
Savings / emergency fund: $50
The family’s minimum weekly outgoings are $1010, leaving them with about $80 a week if no other costs crop up.
Kahukura said they’re blessed to be paying a reasonable price for their rental, which is about $100 cheaper than the average median price for a rental in Napier.
SAVING FOR A HOUSE
In the 12 months from to May 2020 to May 2021, the median house price in Hawke’s Bay has increased by $171,000 from $510,000 to $681,000, according to OneRoof statistics.
A 20 per cent deposit on the current median value house price would be about $136,200.
For the Kahukura family to save enough for a 20 per cent deposit, putting away $80 per week, it would take the pair more than 1700 weeks – 32.7 years – for a median-priced house in Napier.
Finance Advice Hawke’s Bay director Michael Gallagher said there was clearly an affordability issue with living in Hawke’s Bay at the moment.
“It’s also about supply, there’s just not enough houses which is unfortunately affecting the affordability option for people.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mortgage or paying rent – that is people’s biggest, weekly or regular expense.
“The real problem is you would think $1000 a week net should be enough for people to survive in Hawke’s Bay, but it’s not because you have to spend $400 or $500 of that on housing costs.”
BudgetFirst manager Kristal Leach said the couple shouldn’t give up hope on their goal of owning a home.
She said BudgetFirst has many different types of people using its services, some through what is termed “financial shock”, especially after the Napier flood.
“A change-in-life event is usually what brings people in to see a service such as ours, because it’s either a relationship breakdown, or like this case an insurance issue from the Napier flood,” she said.
“I wouldn’t give up hope at this stage, they just have to bounce back from that financial shock and put some money aside.”
Leach said this is where KiwiSaver is a great help as it allows people to save, as well as their employer putting in the equivalent of 3 per cent of the employee’s gross pay.
THE $100K QUESTION: COULD THREE FIGURES GET YOU IN THE DOOR?
Another Hawke’s Bay couple say they’ve been struggling to get on the market due to always being outbid.
Together, Tanisha and her partner earn about $100,000 a year and have solid savings, no debts, loans or children, but are finding it hard to get a foot in the door.
“We are renting but know it will be cheaper owning, however, we can’t seem to win with the house prices,” Tanisha said.
“We constantly save and then bam – the prices go up again, always slightly out of reach.”
She said they are both beginning to think there’s no chance of owning a home.
Leach said people have to adjust to the market and new price level, as it won’t be going down.
“The traditional couple buying their first home is actually becoming much harder, people have to manage their expectations again,” she said.
The BudgetFirst manager said first home buyers have to be a bit more creative.
“Some of the ideas that are coming out from one of our programmes are papakainga, or friends and family getting together, like siblings buying their first home together,” she added.
HOUSING CRISIS: HOPE AHEAD?
Tukituki MP Anna Lorck said Hawke’s Bay has been one of the hardest-hit in the housing crisis.
However, Lorck says the region is in one of the strongest positions ever to deal with the housing shortage head-on.
“We are seeing significant progress, especially in Hastings, over the past 18 months with a massive programme of work ahead – including major projects of public and first home housing.
“We have record consenting numbers with hundreds of new builds under way and more in the pipeline,” she added.