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NZ Initiative’s Jason Krupp argues we need an apples-for-houses comparison on immigration

NZ Initiative’s Jason Krupp argues we need an apples-for-houses comparison on immigration

By Jason Krupp*

Let’s engage in an absurd exercise. Do immigrants, just in coming to New Zealand, make apples more expensive? The answer is no in the grand scheme of things. Sure, if a group of apple-loving foreigners was big enough, demand would exceed supply, and the price would rise in the short-term. But that price rise would attract producers and sellers, supply would pick up to match demand, and pretty soon the price spike would subside.

This is not a unique feature of apples. The same applies to haircuts, cars, toasters, and pretty much any good or service imaginable. So if migrants don’t make apples more expensive (or just about anything else) just by coming here, why do so many people think that they’re the cause of New Zealand housing crisis? It is probably because house prices, particularly in Auckland, have hit new record highs at the same time that immigration has.

But, as Rachel Hodder and I discuss in our recently released report, The New New Zealanders: Why Migrants Make Good Kiwis, correlation and causation are not the same thing. High levels of migration will increase accommodation costs, but they are not the source of the problem. As work by the Initiative and other organisations has shown, it is our regulatory system that prevents the housing market from working like the market for apples.

In an ideal world, the underlying market systems would automatically adjust, such that as demand for accommodation rose and prices increased, developers would build more houses. Likewise, cities would invest in infrastructure to accommodate more people. But laws like the Resource Management Act, Building Act, Land Transport Management Act, and Local Government Act have all choked off the markets ability to respond to rising demand.

Quite simply, closing New Zealand to migrants will do little to fix this regulatory logjam.

But even given a broken planning system there are other reasons to support the notion that migrants are not causing the housing crisis. Economists Bill Cochrane and Jacques Poot surveyed available evidence on the impact of net migration in New Zealand, and don’t find that migrants are to blame for Auckland’s housing woes.

Instead their work points the finger at native born New Zealanders as the likely culprits.

There are three parts to this, and all are linked to New Zealand’s healthy economic growth. Official data shows that 37,000 native born New Zealanders and Australians arrived in New Zealand in the 12-month period to June 2016. Many of these are people looking to resettle or settle here because their economic prospects are better in New Zealand than abroad.

The other factor is the flow of Kiwis who traditionally move overseas on the OE or to seek the fortunes in other countries. The data shows that these people are not leaving in the same numbers as they have previously because the foreign pastures are significantly less green since the Global Financial Crisis. In 2015–16, almost 26,000 Kiwis left the country for more than 12 months. This was much lower than the 36,000 Kiwis who left in 2002, and the 50,000 in 2012 in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes. The net loss of native-born New Zealanders in 2016 was 3,200, the lowest in the current permanent and long-term (PLT) data series.

Third, New Zealand’s recent economic performance has also boosted consumer sentiment among native-born New Zealanders. This has a further factor stoking demand for houses.

By comparison, high inbound PLT migration had a minor impact on house prices. That is because while many migrants are captured in the PLT migration data for staying in New Zealand for more than 12 months it does not mean they are moving here permanently.

A foreign student, while a renter of accommodation, is generally not looking for or is in a position to buy a house. The same is true for PLT visitor and work visa holders. Collectively, these three categories accounted for 58% of all PLT arrivals in 2015–16. Of course migrants will compete with native-born New Zealanders in the rental market, but the inability for business to meet supply is the problem, not the demand.

This is an important argument that needs to be heard in the debate about immigration. Too often we are willing to scapegoat outsiders for our problems, when the root cause lies closer to home. This seems to be particularly the case when it comes to housing affordability.

Instead of turning to immigration policy to fix the housing market, we need to instead turn our attention to the red tape that stops houses from being built. It is high time that houses started behaving like apples again.


*Jason Krupp is a Research Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative, which provides a fortnightly column for

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You don't buy an apple and expect to sell it for a capital gain or raise its rent annually. The housing market has been a immigration fueled ponzi scheme that has put a squeeze on anyone unfortunate to not own a house. Immigration will be reduced this election cycle and house prices will continue to ease off (plummet).


Explain current house price to income ratio increases then? Then compare that to rent to income ratio increases. No housing shortage, just overseas greed!

A key point here - greed has never in the history of mankind resulted in a price increase. You can only sell something for what the market will bear. If I am selling my car and I am 'greedy' and want $10,000 more than it is worth then I won't sell it.

In the same logic - there is a tendency for landlord associations to say that when capital gains reduce they will be 'forced to put up rentals' to compensate. If they could put up rentals they would - rentals are set by market demand not the costs of interest or costs of supplying a rental unit

I disagree with you. Greed most certainly contribute to the demand side, artificially inflating prices with the only driver to make as much money as quickly as possible. See this link as an example of what is deemed an acceptable investment strategy:

I do agree that immigration itself is not the largest driver of property prices, as that would have increased rents to the same extent. There's a shortage of houses to speculate with, not to live in.

Again - no logic to your argument. A house/car/ham sandwich from a 'greedy' person sells for more than a non-greedy one?

Your point about house flipping is also confused. If prices go up then we are dependent on entrepreneurs 'flipping' houses to meet the market and developers subdividing sections and building houses to meet demand. In the same way we need used car salesmen to bring in new supply if car prices go up.

The fundamental reason that we have a shortage of houses is that NZ are not greedy enough. We should more action by the government to tell people that there is 'excess profit' available and that they should ways to bring product to market quickly

At least you acknowledge greed has an effect on price now. I rest my case.

Explain tulips then


You don't have to buy apples. If they are too expensive you buy something else instead. You do have to either rent of buy a home.


Oh dear, another distortion from the wealthy liberal elite who benefit hugely from immigration. How will they ever do without their interesting dining experiences and access to cheaper labour for their businesses. They should be willing to pay NZders more instead of depressing local wages. The situation stinks.

Of course the argument that immigrants do not push up house prices is nonsense - various econometric studies prove otherwise.

Actually few studies suggest that immigration pushes up house prices. If immigration was pushing up house prices in Auckland rentals would have gone up. In fact rentals are not significantly higher than elsewhere in New Zealand. People blame on immigration rather than facing the realities of market inefficiencies.


So following your logic, if we had zero imigration we would have the current level or house and rent prices? Seems unlikely huh?

Rubbish argument. For one, rental is a bound by income and so rental prices and house prices have become disconnected precisely because demand to buy is up (capital gains, scare tactics, more people shopping for the same number of houses etc)

Additionally, do you have evidence that rental "are not significantly higher than elsewhere in NZ"...

Mt Wellington = 480
Hamilton (Hillcrest) = 380
Mt Maunganui = 430
New Plymouth = 320
Whangarei = 350
CHCH Burnside = 420

Seems than even median rent in a fringe suburb like Mt Wellington is significantly higher than other cities.

The rental market is set by the reality of what people can afford. Tenants don't take out a bank loan to pay their rent.
House prices have no relationship to rental return when the market is out of balance by too much demand due to increasing population, low interest rates, overseas investors parking their money and mum and dad investors jumping in for capital gains.

The logic in this argument is fundamentally accurate, but with a couple of special circumstances. The problem that we have is that supply is very slow to respond to demand in the property sector.

I have daughters who accuse my generation of baby-boomers of buying up all the houses which has priced them out of the market. That is as logical as saying our generation bought up all the Japanese imported cars. If that was so the market would import more of them. The cost of the second-hand cars could not rise over the cost of importing more of them in the long-term, although there could be a short term increase in prices until supply improved. The current blip in houses is because of difficulties of getting supply up to meet demand. If you can build a new house for $250,000 (check modular houses on trademe) the long term price will have to come back to this level.

What we fail to do is recognise that current supply is curtailed by regulation, zoning and market resources.

I think your daughters have a much more valid argument than you do.

All together now, Simon Says, do this

So far, every Press Release issuing out of the NZ Initiative has followed the official line

The NZ initiative are a right wing pressure group who want to keep high immigration going because they want to keep the housing ponzi goldmine going full steam ahead.
They don't care about NZ or NZers, their motive is financial. Their spokesman are immigrants. Immigrants don't have the network of family like neices, nephews and grand children who are getting screwed and losing their birthright of having a fair chance in a stable country.
The NZ initiative should be put on the next plane out of NZ.


Remind me again what are the pros that can be attributed to foreign ownership of our housing stock?,are there any?
The re - branded Business Round Table, does not address this.
Looks like we are going to have 8 months of well funded right wing interest groups, using their money to influence our democratic system well beyond their support base.

Under current regulatory conditions Tauranga is building 14.6 homes per 1000 people a year and Auckland is building a mere 6.3 homes per 1000 people per year.


Im not sure what worries me more.. that he is paid to write this stuff, or that people actually believe what is written.

"A foreign student, while a renter of accommodation, is generally not looking for or is in a position to buy a house. The same is true for PLT visitor and work visa holders."
Hahaha. Why is there a need to write down this "guess"? Its sticking the neck out a bit isn't it.
The "generally" qualifier. Hmmmm. Does that mean that if 49% do buy houses then this comment is still technically correct?


What a load of BS - go to an auction on the North Shore of Auckland in the last 5 years and tell me who was buying the houses - often at 50% above what was expected... anything to move the money and get in.

Another example of an academic talking head obsessed with "theory" versus the reality of whats gone on - nothing short of a joke.

Trust me no one in the Auckland region who has actually burnt shoe leather going to see auctions would believe this tripe...hilarious

Auckland Council cut 60% off of the land supply to Auckland City, transforming our property market into a ratepayer guaranteed capital gains bonanza. Of course it was going to attract foreign investment, it was a spectacularly good investment.

Even if there were no foreign investment, our local investors would have borrowed more and the price would have still gone high. Everyone wanted to get in.

All your visiting to auctions has proven is that foreigners were quite good at sniffing out a profitable investment.

They haven't caused anything.


So you are saying..

An additional 70,000 people per annum for the last 5 or so years, with large cheque-books and motivations different to NZ citizens, bidding for and paying overs for the same properties in a market with very in-elastic supply does not affect the price....

Yeah nah...

It has only been 3 years of high immigration. Auckland property prices have been going upwards for longer than 3 years.

And it is not like this is the only place on the planet where Chinese have been investing. They have invested big time in Brisbane, which has also had high poulation growth (averaged over 6 years it is virtually the same as Auckland), The median cost in Brisbane is only $700,000.

The place that exhibits the most similar capital gains to Auckland is Vancouver. Vancouver is confined by a mountain range, the USA and the Pacific Ocean - Vancouver has a real world land shortage. Auckland isn't confined by anything, but has created a planned land shortage. Both places have had a phenomenal price rise and have median prices in the $million bracket.

Their motivations aren't any different from you or me, they want to make lots of money. And if you were investing in property in the last 6 years Auckland was a great place to invest.

Well I have 3 members of my family in Vancouver and its also become the play thing of rich Chinese immigrants who were so desperate to get their money out of China that they reset the RE market in a rush to move large amounts of money out and put it into a hard assets - often like has just happened in NZ by paying 30,40,50% above market rate for property and locking out the locals who are tied to local incomes.

Canada (and AUS) are also one of the limp wristed countries like NZ who also allow foreign non-residents to rape and pillage the RE stocks whilst making ZERO contribution to the tax base or existing infrastructure that is already in place.

Our naivety and short-sightedness is beyond belief...

So again - if you believe immigration adds no fuel to the fire I think you are incorrect - categorically

There is a global property boom going on, everywhere is having price growth. Japan is having a property boom, Japan has notoriously low immigration. Do you think the Japanese market is being fuelled by immigration?

This global boom is fuelled by low interest rates, immigration is irrelevant.

The median unit price in Vancouver is $1,000,000, understandably as Vancouver is afflicted by a severe land shortage and in a period of high global property prices it will become very expensive, very quickly. Toronto has a median unit price of only $700,000, same country with same immigration policies.

Likewise Auckland trades at a premium above the Australasian market, because we have a severe land shortage. If Auckland did not have a land shortage our median price of a home would be in the $600,000 to range (like Brisbane).

Auckland is a high price outlier like Vancouver due to land shortages, with only one difference. Vancouver's land restrictions are caused by a real mountain range, a real ocean and a real international border. Auckland's land restrictions are entirely imaginary. Auckland's land restrictions were created by Auckland Council in an effort to drive development to preferred mega-sprawl projects in the remote towns of the Auckland region.

yes yes and yes - agreed...

SO knowing ALL of this, and when we can clearly see the evidence why the hell would we continue to bring in MORE people to compete for the same limited resource at the cost of the incumbent citizens???

How can that not be inflationary (and insane)??

Talk about missing the forest through the trees where all is talked about is the supply with no accounting for demand - they are part of the same equation.

Blind bl@@dy idealogy...

Because the immigrants operate on both sides of the equation.

I think immigrants do not (primarily) feature on the demand side of the equation, they aren't bringing additional capital beyond what is freely available from low global interest rates. Auckland was having 10-15% price increases prior to us having high immigration. Now with high immigration we have had 3 years of 10-20% price increases.

The cynical reason to bring in immigrants is to reduce the cost of labour, immigration drives down wages - they represent some hope on the supply side of the equation. In a country suffering structurally high supply side costs - caused by earthquakes and unique local government formulations (thanks Key/Hide & Brown/Hulse) - we need some relief on the supply side.

Your apples for houses analogy is flawed. IF apples were impossible to grow more of (e.g. there was no appropriate place left to grow economically viable apples, if there was less arable land) then apple cost WOULD go up. Even if supply did meet demand after a lag, it may make the cost of pears go up as pear growers switch to the more lucrative apple market.

I think that is the main point of the argument. There is no lack of land supply in NZ (otherwise apple prices would be going up). And there is no shortage of building supplies. So there is no reason we can't build more houses other than over regulation.

That is obviously a BS argument as Tauranga is building homes about 2.5x faster per capita than Auckland.

What about labour supply?

Also, I'd say that land supply near employment centres is limited. B/C of NIMBY, many aucklanders don't want the required density.


This article should be used as a lesson in why not to listen to writers with an obvious agenda.
Supply AND demand have parts to play. The writer acknowledges this on one hand when talking about the trends of NZ native migration, but then claims that it has no effect on the housing crisis.
Apples is a ridiculous analogy. Apples are a daily grocery item for most of the population. How many houses are traded in a day. Of course migration can have a huge effect!
The argument that most migration is by native NZers and students is irrelevant, so lets just talk about the immigration over and above that, which Don Brash has said is one of the largest in the world per capita.

This is clearly a right wing column looking to play the moderate card on immigration, when actually they just want to continue bringing in more cheap labour for businesses to exploit at the cost of NZ workers and taxpayers in general.

Hard to see what the NZ Init's reason to be is except for the bleeding obvious...

Does anyone recall the late 80's when the reverse applied to immigration? People were leaving in droves and selling a house was a nightmare. There was just no demand. One real estate guy I knew had a stroke after his one potential sale for the year fell through.
Its about demand and regardless of what someone with the fancy title of "Research Fellow" might be paid to say its always been about demand and immigrants / foreign buyers somewhere in the order of 3-30% are part of that demand.

Too right. Only a few years back most of the country was experiencing negative net migration and hence houses in small rural towns were on the market for months, if not years. Same thing is happening on the West Coast at the moment.
Although, he is kind of right, it is not about the immigrants themselves per se, but about population growth, and right now NZ's rapid population growth is 60-70% fueled by immigration, whereas in the recent past immigration made up around 30% on average.


Frankly, the price is the result of SUPPLY v DEMAND
Immigration is part of the demand.
Someone please tell me how immigrants do NOT contribute to the demand and hence the price.
Only "a bear of very little brain " could avoid this conclusion unless you are prepared to deal in "alternative facts"

Yes this is kind of true. A good market would respond to demand. The housing market in NZ is clearly not working as it should. However, the reality is that there is more demand for housing than the current market can supply. Demand and supply determines price. As we have greater demand, including immigration, then house prices will of course increase. I am all for fixing the supply issue but let's not pretend demand isn't an issue either.

interesting a piece written by an immigrant arguing that the level of immigrants coming in does not make a difference to pricing.
How impartial is he? does he have any preconceived notions based on his own experience

another import - South Africa this time

Alma Mater Jeppe High School for Boys Johannesburg

Krupp is over-simplifying the issue , using the Apples analogy ............ you see there are no Auckland Council restrictions on apples or where they can be grown, or by whom or when they can be grown , so migrants have free access to apples .

However , there are complex rules for the development of land for housing which has been a major logjam

have you seen the price of apples rise in export season when it is more profitable to send offshore then sell to locals, and drop when exports fall over
I think he analogy is correct as apple prices in NZ are governed by overseas purchases not so much by locals
What about all the vines that got ripped out when too many people got into apples and the price drop below cost of production, again due to overseas buyers not locals

Let me get this straight. This guy is saying that because our housing market is not behaving like a perfectly pure and free commodity market, like apples; it is the markets fault that it is not able to instantly meet the nearly step change in demand (from a base point where it was arguably falling behind also) Therefore it is the markets fault and it is this that needs to be fixed, and we don't need to worry anything thing about the step change in demand (immigration), quite regardless of the chaos and suffering that this situation is causing. - A somewhat unrealistic purist theoretical view? What planet are these people on?
If we are going for a totally free and open housing market. This would require completely throwing away the unban boundary and leave developers free to develop where and how they like. Similarly we would have to throw our building supply open to full world wide competition, instead of the cosy little cartels that now operate. Is this what they are suggesting? Why are they not making a lot more noise to address these causes rather than dreaming up spurious arguments to justify a ridiculous level of immigration? While I agree that we need to go a long way in the direction of reforming the crazy house supply market, what ever we do has a long lead time a a whole raft of vested interests are blocking it at every turn, while all the time immigrants pour into a country that has a huge backlog in demand and supply remains well short
As for his other points
Immigrants make good citizens. Pretty obvious really average immigrants will be no better or worse than our current population, just average people getting on with life. That isn't really the question though or a reason to flood our country with them and all the capital investment that they need. As I have said before a low productivity country that largely lives by Agriculture and Tourism doesn't need them, we need far better productivity.
Immigrants don't take employment from Kiwis.
Plain wrong. The last sets of statistics showed record immigration, rising employment and rising unemployment. In other words the immigrants soaked up all the new jobs created plus some of the existing ones, so unemployment rose.


I disagree Jason to me this is simple maths.... more people, than you can build houses for = too many people

Horrible analogy - we can easily produce more apples. We can't produce more land. Of course a growing population will result in rising land prices, regardless of whether via immigration or natural growth.

I never knew it was so simple... I'll just tell my future children to live in an apple.

Most of the time - headline is decided and than the article is framed to justify it.

Oh dear. They still don't teach economists about land? He treats houses as if they were a production item, which they are, but overlooks the fact that they need land to go on. Land is a collective monopoly, it's value is determined by how much banks will lend you to buy it. Completely different dynamic.

How does he overlook the land issue?
He describes it perfectly by saying:
"In an ideal world, the underlying market systems would automatically adjust, such that as demand for accommodation rose and prices increased, developers would build more houses. Likewise, cities would invest in infrastructure to accommodate more people. But laws like the Resource Management Act, Building Act, Land Transport Management Act, and Local Government Act have all choked off the markets ability to respond to rising demand.

The bank lending dynamic is a secondary issue.

He suggests that land development is constrained by policy, this is true, but land price is set by bank's willingness to lend. When you buy a property right (ie a property privilege, the right to join the property owning cartel) you enter into a contest with the under bidder over which of you is willing and able to borrow the most. Two different dynamics.

The land price issue we face is driven primarily by the supply side, not the demand side.
The bidding issue is secondary to the supply issue..

Then maybe that should have been sorted BEFORE opening the gates wide.

You may be right, but to me it seems that either can be the constraining factor at any one time, but if you only fix one then the other will replace it. The development cartel is one factor, the borrowing cartel is another, the inflow of people is another.

True, either can be a constraining factor.
Importantly though, lending is not the key restraining factor in this case; land supply is.
Thus, land supply is the only way to fix the underlying issue. Neither increasing lending potential or reducing immigration will have a significant effect.

Agreed, what he is basically saying is that demand (from anywhere) is only a problem if the supply cannot be readily increased to meet it.

Land regulation in NZ does not allow enough land to be released to meet that demand either by not releasing enough land in total and/or making it difficult to bring what land is released to market to meet that demand.

When demand exceeds supply, it gives a quazi/real monopoly to the suppliers, and prices go up.

All basic stuff so far, but what is over looked is you reap what you sow, so if we set up a system that encourages capital gains to be made by just sitting on an investment, by not adding any value to the property, by withholding properties from the market, leaving them empty etc, in effect limiting supply further, then you attract that type of investor.

After all if you build a casino, then you get gamblers using it, not investors interested in making a return by adding value.

Whether it be overseas domiciled foreigners & kiwis, or resident new immigrants, or kiwis, then if you are a speculator then NZ is the place to bet.

There are other jurisdictions where immigration and investment in property is higher, interest rates are cheaper etc. and yet land can be quickly developed and enough brought to market to meet demand. and new house prices are around 3x medium income.

If you want real investors, even for developing property, then have policies that attract those type of people.

And one of those policies would be making sure land can easily and quickly be developed.

He's not an economist. He's a think tanker.... take from that what you will.

Looks like a tank is not the best environment for thinking

Maybe he was tanked


Why is it that when I read NZ Initiative writings that I get the feeling that we are all being talked down to. And at the same time their material is quite naïve. In this case they have a theory to promote (market forces) that they are trying to fit to the facts.
The reality is that prices have gone up to a ridiculous level, which has been very harmful to many of the inhabitants of these fair isles, especially the young. And 'the market' mechanism described by the NZI has not delivered in bringing them down. So apparently we need more market. doh.
The sponsors of the NZI need control of the economy in their interest, and do achieve such by and large.We can be sure they do not want markets.
And while they are at it the NZI try to drag in and justify their other views on immigration.

NZ Initiative logic never quite stands up to scrutiny. They go for 'superficially sounds OK if you don't think about it too much'.

Just one thing wrong with this steaming pile is that they're still conflating real demand for dwellings with not-so-rational demand for speculative tokens and money-laundering vehicles.

Seriously, how the hell did this crock of ... get past quality control, it just about takes the crock of ... cake.

Vested interest. From politicians to Media to.....

Cheap loans locally and offshore have meant immigrants and Kiwis have bought apples and then sell them for a higher price to buyers who also have access to cheap loans and so it goes on. Eventually some poor schmuck ends up with a portfolio of rotten apples (negative equity and high interest rates).

Um.. is this guy for real? Apples which grows on trees and is not a basic human "need" vs houses on land that doesn't ever expand? Surely, he's just trolling to get people to react. Immigrants are not only contributing to the housing crisis they are taking jobs that NZers could be doing. Obviously if the labour market was truely a free market the wages will go up but the immigrants are keeping the wages low as well. I just don't understand liberal snowflakes wanting even more refugees and immigrants. Do they not realise they are digging their own graves, screwing the future of their offsprings and worsening inequality? I would like to know 1 thing that benefits most NZ citizens with an open door immigration.

Have you not noticed that recently other countries have started to wake up about immigration ? The unfortunate thing about New Zealand is that its 10 years behind and even then doesn't learn from the other countries mistakes.

Yes indeed, and, you will notice that such facts never figure in press releases from NZ Initiative - ever

'New Zealand Initiative' are a right wing pressure group making money from the immigration fed housing ponzi scheme.
How they get given media attention as though they are an unbiased study group of economists is a mystery and just one more example of how bias and financially manipulated our media have become.

Meanwhile in the real world, I've just been to put in the supermarket order and there's a big banner across the page saying that most apples are unavailable because we exported them all and the new ones haven't grown.

so not enough apples for NZ citizens because non NZ citizens are buying up the available stock, and more cannot be produced for supply
good analogy

It's right there on the Countdown Fruit & Veg page.

It is not just the standard direct immigrants pushing up the house prices. It is all the peripheral people as well: international students (some of whom are used as buyers for offshore family etc), the extended families of immigrants, short term visitors, buyers who then return to their home country, etc.
NZ property is on a global market, and very attractive to many. Our relative smallness means we are easily overwhelmed with offshore funded and foreign buyers. 4.5million vs 3 - 4 billion in Asia alone.

Just saying " a foreign student, while a renter of accommodation, is generally not looking for or is in a position to buy a house" sounds vaguely plausible. But we still don't have enough information to say its correct, or that migrants (temporary or otherwise) are excessively influencing house demand - thanks to our conveniently lax house sale monitoring regime . Where is the investigative work here?. The lack of hard data simply drives this kind of ideologically tinged speculation -from all sides of the political debate.