When AJ, whose real name is concealed for privacy, relocated from India to New Zealand 22 years back, he juggled multiple jobs alongside his studies. “I was 18, working as a pizza delivery driver, and later as a taxi driver,” he recalls. Transitioning through various roles, AJ eventually found himself employed by one of the nation’s largest banks, where he took pleasure in guiding clients through mortgage processes to realize their dreams of homeownership. Diligently saving over the years, AJ and his wife scraped together $160 thousand for a down payment, enabling them to purchase their inaugural home in 2019 through a nerve-wracking auction experience. Their elation was palpable as they clinched the deal, marking a significant milestone in a foreign land with hard-earned funds.

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In 2021, bolstered by additional savings and leveraging the equity from their first home, they embarked on acquiring land to construct a new residence. Subsequently, upon completion, they relocated to their new abode while renting out their initial property. Sacrificing luxuries like dining out and vehicle purchases, they channeled all resources into mortgage payments, with AJ even resorting to moonlighting as an Uber driver while his wife clocked in extensive overtime hours.

However, their fortunes took a downturn in October 2023 when AJ lost his job due to restructuring, coinciding with a rapid escalation in their home loan interest rates from under 2.5 percent to a staggering 8.29 percent. Struggling to sustain the hefty monthly repayments, compounded by dwindling rental income and solely relying on his wife’s earnings, they spiraled into arrears, forcing AJ into a stay-at-home parenting role for their infant.

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Despite relentless job hunting efforts yielding minimal responses, the financial strain persisted, leading to contemplation of drastic measures like pursuing night shifts to ensure round-the-clock care for their child. With dwindling options and mounting debts, they reluctantly weighed the prospect of liquidating their assets and downsizing to a more affordable living arrangement, a stark departure from their earlier aspirations.

Their plight mirrors a broader trend across New Zealand, as escalating interest rates precipitate a wave of financial distress among homeowners, prompting drastic measures ranging from property sales to cross-border relocations in pursuit of economic respite. Amidst pervasive anxiety over mounting mortgage obligations, exacerbated by stagnant wages and escalating living costs, households grapple with the specter of diminished financial security and shattered dreams of homeownership.