The real cost of business in Auckland's housing crisis

Decreased productivity, increased sickness and an inability to fill roles are just some of the effects being felt by businesses from Auckland’s housing crisis, according to the results of a recent survey by leading recruitment agency, Frog Recruitment.   

The Frog Recruitment Housing Survey questioned senior managers of nearly 40,000 employees across 25 Auckland-based businesses from multiple sectors including finance, media, property and food.
“The results of the survey were loud and clear; the housing crisis in Auckland is having a major impact on its workforce,” says Frog Recruitment founder Jane Kennelly.   
“The majority of managers we surveyed said they have serious concerns about the impact Auckland’s high cost of living is having on their ability to attract and retain staff and also on some employees’ performance. 
"With the median house price in Auckland currently ten times the median income and expected to reach nearly $2 million by 2020*, it’s fair to say we have a problem on our hands that is only going to get worse”.


“The results of the survey were loud and clear; the housing crisis in Auckland is having a major impact on its workforce.”

The survey found that the difficulty in housing affordability meant there was a growing number of the workforce renting homes. Employers cited decreased productivity due to staff moving around different rental properties and an increase in sickness for those employees who can’t afford to move into better living conditions. 
“Employers reported that housing affordability, renting and the impact of those issues on performance was a very common conversation held around the water cooler,” adds Kennelly.

The affordability issues around Auckland housing also presented challenges for employers to attract skilled staff from outside the region.  “Many won’t or can’t come to Auckland as they know they won’t be able to afford to live here, which impacts on skill levels within companies.   Conversely, we are losing highly skilled Aucklanders to other regions in the country to pursue a better work life balance.”

Survey participant and ATEED head of innovation and entrepreneurship, Russell O’Brien says the issue is also a global one. 
“Cities are competing globally to attract the right type of talent to fuel their emerging innovation economies.  Recruiting young entrepreneurial talent is a key to building a sustainable innovation economy in any city.  As accommodation and housing in Auckland become less affordable over time, the city will increasingly become less attractive to new talent wishing to migrate to a "liveable city" and there will be less of an incentive for our existing talent to remain here.  This may act as a barrier to the growth of Auckland’s innovation economy.
“Corporations too are very similar in that they’re pursuing fresh young minds to fuel their innovation strategies.  Where the minds go, the companies will follow.  If we lose fresh young entrepreneurial minds to other towns and cities then we are less attractive to overseas corporations as a place to base their business,” said O’Brien.

While the Frog report highlighted the concerns Auckland’s high cost of living was bringing to businesses, Kennelly says only two thirds of the organisations surveyed have introduced policies to mitigate these issues.  
“A flexible mindset is vital if business is going to attract and retain employees in Auckland.  Employers cited a need to consider work options outside the square, such as flexible start times outside of peak rush hours, remote work arrangements, commuting allowances or free car parks.  Employees are increasingly requesting these types of options in their salary package negotiations so offering creative solutions is essential,” she said.

Auckland’s traffic problems also came under fire in the survey’s responses. The morale of workplaces is being negatively impacted as frustrated employees arrive at work stressed, having negotiated traffic delays. The increased dependence on public transport cited as a concern for employers, who found many employees were late to work as a consequence.  

*As quoted by financial commentator Rod Oram, Sunday Star Times, 7 May 2016.