Homes plan irrelevant in Bay?

By Lydia Anderson

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It's doubtful a proposal to restrict offshore investors buying up Kiwi properties will help Hawke's Bay first-home buyers, a real estate agent says.

"Hawke's Bay has generally been quite affordable compared to the rest of the country and nothing's changed really in the last five years," said Harcourts Hawke's Bay general manager Pete Meaclem.

The Labour Party policy, announced on Sunday, would block all purchases of existing property by overseas buyers who did not live in New Zealand or did not plan to. Australians and other foreigners who planned to build houses and increase the national housing supply would be exempted.

Labour leader David Shearer said the policy was necessary to give Kiwi first-home buyers a hand into the housing market.

"We've found properties from Auckland to Invercargill that are being marketed to offshore speculators," he said.

"That can only increase demand, and help drive up prices."

However, Mr Meaclem said the number of offshore investors was "negligible" and most foreign buyers in Hawke's Bay were English people or South Africans relocating to the area to work in health or education.

Even the coastal areas were not attracting offshore investors.

"To be honest, they're mainly Kiwis buying that beach house or one or two people who are looking for an escape for summer."

Hawke's Bay housing sales released by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand show the number of houses sold in Napier in June 2013 dipped to 73 compared to 86 in June 2012. However, the median property price jumped from $270,000 to $285,000 in that period.

In Hastings, house sales were down from 82 to 67, while the median price rose from $267,000 to $271,000.

Labour's policy is already drawing mixed political reaction and has been labelled anti-Chinese.

Prime Minister John Key said there was a limited number of foreign home buyers, and Labour's policy would have little impact on the market.

"The reality is that not that many people come in and buy properties that aren't either permanent residents or aren't going to take up personal residencies," Mr Key said.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said Labour was blaming the housing shortage on foreigners.

"(It's) the oldest trick in the political book. There's no evidence that overseas buyers are having any discernable effect over house prices," he said.

However, New Zealand First and the Green Party are backing the proposal.

Meanwhile, constitutional lawyer Stephen Franks said the policy was a direct breach of New Zealand's Free Trade Agreement with China, which stated Chinese investors must be treated no less favourably than those of any other country, such as Australia.

 

- Hawkes Bay Today

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