Craig and Rosy would much rather be owning than renting

Craig and Rosy would much rather be owning than renting

For this couple servicing a mortgage isn’t the problem, it’s the size of the deposit to get them on the first step. With no ‘bank of mum and dad’ to help the leg-up, it’s tough.

Craig Hohaia and Rosy Leader moved from London in 2019 to be closer to Craig’s family and to introduce them to their son Roman. At that point, the New Zealand housing market looked like an affordable place—a like-for-like with their previous setup, but with COVID arriving a month after their arrival, not only did they realise they weren’t going to be the only family returning home, but they would also find themselves in the tough position of finding a place to live. Lockdowns saw rental prices go through the roof, and the dream of owning their own home quickly became a sort of mirage, hovering in the distance. But despite the interruption of lockdowns, transitioning from fast-paced London life to Tāmaki Makaurau has also been a positive experience for Rosy and Craig, who note the chilled-out atmosphere and opportunity for invaluable family time,“if we hadn’t moved within two months of the pandemic, [my family] would not have yet met our son… We came back for family, not our careers.”

While a connection to family has easily accompanied their shift, finding work similar to London resulted in differing experiences for the couple. Rosy quickly found herself a job in social media where fortuitous crossovers with old colleagues mean Rosy’s overseas experiences are highly valuable, “it’s been handy to keep one foot in that space.”

For Craig, job-hunting in the small New Zealand market has presented more challenges, “it’s taken a bit of an adjustment: the pace, the work, and redressing expectations.” Searching for positions akin to his previous roles, Craig found there weren’t many, “in the bigger population abroad, I found there was a ton of movement in that senior level.” Yet Craig has found his feet by pivoting from working in advertising agencies with a specific interest in tech to working currently for a studio building digital products.

Despite both Rosy and Craig now holding senior positions in their Kiwi workplaces, the biggest challenge for the couple is their journey toward home ownership. Rosy speaks of researching property prices and interest rates in Aotearoa before making the shift, thinking, “we can probably do this if we have the same salaries, this is feasible.” Unfortunately, what followed their move was skyrocketing pandemic prices as Kiwis rushed home amidst international chaos.

While the initial plan was to buy a family home, Rosy and Craig have spent three years paying a substantial fee for their Mount Eden rental. The area provides much of what Rosy and Craig desire: proximity to work, a local-focused community and Roman’s school, but their current rental situation lacks the security and financial viability the family craves. Despite the extortionate price of housing in Auckland, the couple doesn't qualify for any government scheme; falling above the $130,000 joint income threshold to receive the First Home Grant. 

Frustratingly Rosy and Craig know they could manage a decent mortgage, “we can service this villa in Mount Eden, but we just don’t have the deposit.” 

Rosy communicates the flow-on effect of property inequality, “we fall between this gap of people that can get support and have the 5% deposits and all the help from the government, and the people that have parents that are going to give them a deposit.”

Craig discusses this inequality in regard to some of the most vulnerable communities in Aotearoa, “in Pacifica Māori families, you don’t retire because you can’t. They have to pay rent, they don’t have equity. They’re maintaining a big house with multiple generations of people inside them. And then they don’t get to have a 20-year retirement. It’s sad.”

Lowering house prices provide the couple with some hope, although they are wary of rising interest rates and the impact this could have on their family in the future, “if we take a big mortgage out…we’re still paying a lot of interest on that, and, realistically, that means that Craig’s going to be in his 70s when we finish paying it off!”

Ultimately, Rosy and Craig want to feel safe and secure in a home. While they love their current home, the couple say the realities of renting can get them down. Being at the whim of their landlord means Roman’s schooling could be interrupted at any point, while the income going toward their rent seems a waste; money that could otherwise be invested in their future. In practical ways too, renting is tough. 

Rosy speaks of the frustrations around lack of agency over fixing structural issues in the home; a kitchen on its last legs, windows that need replacing, “I could go to Bunnings and sort it out myself, but I’m paying rent for the landlord to do so.”

Unfortunately, Rosy and Craigs' story is not an isolated or uncommon situation. The division between landlords and tenants, and a lack of housing are pressing issues in Aotearoa; unaided by natural disasters causing mass homelessness and an inflated housing market. Craig sums up the problem succinctly, “culturally there is a power imbalance between landlords, agents, and renters in New Zealand.” The vital question is how we address this power imbalance and provide opportunities for those without generational wealth to live in stable, healthy homes and thriving communities. 

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