Housing supply at risk

Property investors keen on the build-to-rent market will be sorely disappointed if the Government does not carve this niche out as another asset class, says the Property Council NZ.

Build-to-rent (BTR) is a major focus for the Property Council NZ (the council).

In a letter to Government ministers ahead of the council’s submission on the proposed changes to tax deductibility rules, it says the proposals will be a massive barrier to BTR developments occurring at scale and pace.

If the changes go head the council says emerging asset classes like BTR are at risk of being deemed unviable by domestic developers.

“Not only is there not enough certainty regarding how interest deductibility will work in the second hand market, but without a specific exemption investors will be reticent to invest,” says the letter.

Property council chief executive Leonie Freeman says rather than disincentivise flipping and speculating, the changes will disincentivise legitimate new supply coming onto the market and will stifle the Government’s objectives of building more houses.

“The changes complicate a system which allows legitimate claims for interest deductions, and creates complex exemptions and rules which incentivise potential loopholes which do not help add supply to the market.”

She says if the Government is serious about BTR as a prospect for helping solve the housing crisis, it will adopt the council’s key recommendations which will allow BTR’s full potential to be unleashed.

Key recommendation

Property is the country’s largest industry with a direct contribution to GDP of $29.8 billion – 13% a year.

Freeman says the changes proposed in the consultation document do not provide the level of certainty developers need to build more houses in New Zealand.

The council is recommending the Government specifically carves out BTR development to ensure certainty to investors, developers and future owners.

BTR is defined by the council as an asset specifically designed, constructed or adapted for long-term residential tenancies.

It has a minimum portfolio of 50 self-contained dwellings and includes some form of shared amenity.

The units are let separately but held in unified ownership with dedicated tenancies for a minimum of eight years with professional and qualified management under a single entity.

BTR is viewed as more akin to a commercial asset or like student accommodation and retirement villages.

Most BTR developments are built on metropolitan and business mixed use zoned land.

It is viable because of its access to other commercial and retail spaces close to town centres which don’t exist in predominantly residential areas, says the council.

“In both of these regards, BTR does not fit neatly in with the traditional residential asset class.

“If BTR is not exempt then it is not participating on a level playing field with other commercial uses [which] are competing for similar metropolitan and business mixed use zoned land,” says Freeman. 

She says if BTR is not recognised as a specific asset class, and is not explicitly exempt in perpetuity from the proposed interest deductibility changes, BTR will not be feasible to grow and operate in New Zealand for either investors, developers or owners.

“To many investors, New Zealand is seen as out of step with international best practice and it has impeded the country’s ability to attract capital and expertise to build and develop at scale and pace.”

Freeman says the proposed tax deductibility changes further diminishes that, and puts at risk the Government and private industry’s ability to add supply across New Zealand and help fix the country’s housing crisis.

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