Why we can’t af­ford a house

Doco sets out to ex­plain why home own­er­ship has slipped out of the av­er­age Kiwi’s grasp.

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You only need a pass­ing ac­quain­tance with cur­rent af­fairs to know that house prices and af­ford­abil­ity are rarely out of the head­lines, but what’s the story be­hind the num­bers? In one­off lo­cal doco Who Owns NZ Now (Tues­day, 8.30pm, Three) jour­nal­ist Bryan Bruce at­tempts to an­swer that ques­tion.

He leaps into the topic with some fig­ures on dwin­dling home own­er­ship and in­creas­ing home­less­ness and yep, the num­bers are a bit of a shock. And they just keep com­ing. But num­bers mean noth­ing with­out some ex­pla­na­tion and that’s what re­ally in­ter­ests here.

Bruce uses his own life as an ex­am­ple. His par­ents were able to buy their first home with a state-as­sisted mort­gage and just a 5 per cent de­posit. Bruce was a teacher in the 1970s and was able to buy a home in Christchurch for just $26,000 – twice his an­nual in­come back then. The maths works out very dif­fer­ent for a teacher on an av­er­age salary to­day.

A bit of his­tory is thrown in as we head back to the 1980s, the rise of ne­olib­er­al­ism and fi­nan­cial dereg­u­la­tion. Bruce hops around the globe talk­ing to econ­o­mists, pro­fes­sors and other ex­perts and ex­am­ines the is­sues around over­seas buy­ers. He heads to Van­cou­ver, of­ten held up as one of the most de­sir­able cities to live in de­spite be­ing the third most un­af­ford­able. And right be­hind it, in fourth place for that du­bi­ous ac­co­lade, is Auck­land.

This fas­ci­nat­ing doc­u­men­tary deals with a very top­i­cal is­sue in an ac­ces­si­ble and in­ter­est­ing way. It an­swers ques­tions about how we got to where we are in terms of hous­ing, but also throws up in­ter­est­ing de­bate on how the is­sue might be solved and, ul­ti­mately, what sort of so­ci­ety we want to live in.

An­other lo­cal doco, Why Are We Fat? (Sun­days, 8.30pm, Prime), treads a more fa­mil­iar path. This three­parter sees celebrity chef Si­mon Gault in new ter­ri­tory. Hit with the news that he’s of­fi­cially obese and is de­vel­op­ing type-2 di­a­betes, he heads off to ex­plore the is­sue of our grow­ing fat­ness.

I won’t even stand on the scales in front of my dog, let alone an­other hu­man be­ing so fair play to Gault who strips off and sub­jects him­self to all sorts of de­press­ing tests and mea­sures of fat­ness.

He’s poked and prod­ded and put in a spe­cial pod and given an MRI, each test serv­ing to just throw a lit­tle more salt in the wound. And the pro­fes­sor who mea­sures Gault’s ‘‘vis­ceral’’ (in­ter­nal) fat takes an al­most hor­ri­fied de­light in the re­sults. Look­ing at the fig­ures he con­cludes that’s ‘‘a mas­sive amount of fat’’, ‘‘that’s phe­nom­e­nal’’ and then, just to ham­mer the mes­sage home, ‘‘this is re­ally, re­ally bad’’.

It feels a bit fa­mil­iar and let’s face it, do­cos about how fat we’re all get­ting are hardly rare. But Gault is a pleas­ant enough pre­sen­ter and it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how he tack­les his trou­bles.

Bryan Bruce bought a house in the 1970s for just $26,000 – twice his teacher’s salary back then. The maths works out very dif­fer­ent for a teacher these days...

Chef Si­mon Gault puts him­self un­der the mi­cro­scope in Why Are We Fat?

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