Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Don't blame immigrants

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Our neighbourhooods are full of ordinary people. Photo / NZME.
Our neighbourhooods are full of ordinary people. Photo / NZME.

If you listened to talkback this week you'd know who's to blame for the price of Auckland's houses. It's the immigrants. They've come here with their deep pockets, snapped up multiple houses in the best parts of the city and made it impossible for young Kiwis to buy their first homes and start their families. Talkback says there's only one thing for it: stop immigration.

I've just moved into my first Auckland home. For what we've shelled out, we should be living in a mansion with an en suite dedicated to each bedroom, perched on the edge of a cliff enjoying expansive ocean views and spending our afternoons playing tennis in our backyard court.

The reality is a two-bedroom cottage with one tiny bathroom we can only reach by mounting a steep set of stairs. Sure, we can enjoy the afternoon sun in the backyard, but we'll be doing that on a patch of astroturf the size of a single car park.

When I feel particularly masochistic, I log on to property websites and gaze at the price the previous owners paid just three years ago.

The house has nearly doubled in value. I've become the real life example of a terrible statistic.

Just this week, Demographia released its annual survey showing Auckland is now officially the fifth most-expensive place in the world to buy a house. Hence the call to close the borders. The trouble with believing this theory is that I've yet to bump into one of these uber-wealthy immigrants.

We bought our house at auction and there wasn't a single foreign bidder there. No accents, no Chinese money, just sound-like-they've-been-here-for-ages Kiwis.

Since moving in this week, I've scouted out my new neighbourhood. I don't see any of these property-magnate immigrants roaming the streets. The only folks I have met are Kiwis.

A study just out of the London School of Economics suggests that we are very, very wrong to blame immigrants for snapping up all the houses. For a start, the study says, immigrants often start out renting rather than buying.

That, I concede, poses its own raft of problems but not the one we're blaming them for.

The second point the study makes is one we should probably all have a long, hard think about. Apparently immigrants lower the value of properties.

It works like this: a foreign family moves into a house, the locally born neighbours start moving out one by one, no one really wants to buy there any more, the property prices fall.

I'm not sure I like what that says about us. Keeping out immigrants could well be one of the worst things we could do. These people are choosing to come to New Zealand because we're doing well. They're coming here because they want to do well.

They're people with skills and money. They're the kind of people we want in this country.

The track record for immigrants in this country is pretty good. Our beloved Lorde is the granddaughter of immigrants.

Grant Elliott, the man whose bat took us to our first Cricket World Cup Final, is an immigrant.

The Prime Minister is the son of an immigrant.

If you're looking for someone to blame, blame the banks that are once again handing out huge mortgages to people barely able to afford to buy.

Blame the Reserve Bank for keeping interest rates low so it can meet an increasingly arbitrary-seeming inflation target.

Blame the council for making it hard to build new houses.

Blame the Government for trying its darndest to avoid doing anything to make house prices drop.

Just don't blame the immigrants.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something trying very hard to avoid growing up. So far it’s working, except for the husband, the mortgage and the proper job. She lives between Auckland and Wellington. When she’s not writing for the Herald on Sunday, she co-hosts TV3’s 7pm current affairs programme Story.

Read more by Heather du Plessis-Allan

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