The political war of words over housing affordability heated up today, with Prime Minister John Key accusing the Greens and New Zealand First of “racism”.
It followed calls for restrictions to be placed on foreign buyers in the property market.
In a case of direct marketing, Auckland homes are being advertised directly to Chinese buyers in commercials running on Chinese channel WTV8 in Auckland, and broadcast on the internet.
But the buyers are now in the sights of Opposition politicians, who want to restrict them.
“In order to make land and housing affordable for ordinary New Zealanders, we do need to put the brakes on foreign buyers of housing,” says Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.
“It’s not xenophobic,” NZ First leader Winston Peters says. “It’s not being anti-foreign investment at all – it’s a straight takeover.”
In New Zealand, there are no official figures kept of foreign ownership of houses and there are currently no restrictions. In China, foreigners cannot be landlords. In Australia, non-residents cannot buy established dwellings as investment properties.
Mr Key does not like the idea of restrictions.
“New Zealand has hundreds of thousands of Chinese New Zealanders,” he says.
“They come here, they establish a life here – why aren’t the allowed to buy a house? It’s just racism isn’t it?”
Labour leader David Shearer is big on housing affordability, but was lukewarm about his potential future Government partners, saying only that they would “talk about it”.
Although he was ready to give the latest line on what $300,000 will get you under his party’s affordable housing policy.
“We’re looking at a three bedroom house in the $300,000 to $350,000 range […] in Auckland.”
Mr Key was critical of Mr Shearer’s policy saying: “[He] has had all of the Christmas break to think about his policies, and all he has been able to do is work out that he was wrong when he promised people he could deliver them a four-bedroom home for $300,000 in Auckland.”
Mr Shearer says Mr Key is just “worried”.
“He knows we can build houses and bring the price down. He’s got no plans, he’s really worried.”
So restrictions on foreign buyers is the latest battle in this year’s first big political issue – the housing wars. Labour has been making ground, but its costings simply still aren’t clear – something that will come under sustained attack when Parliament resumes this week.