Across the last several days there has been debate raging about whether picking on Chinese home buyers in New Zealand is being racist or not. The latest round of controversy kicked off when Labour Member of Parliament Phil Twyford said there were a lot of people with Chinese sounding names buying houses in New Zealand.
Chinese buyers or not, one thing is clear to me and that is New Zealand housing on the whole is far too easily obtainable by non-New Zealanders. The housing of a nation should be for the citizens and permanent residents of that nation first and foremost. I have no problems if Chinese buy New Zealand housing if they agree to go through a process like any other non New Zealander, but any prospective buyer from outside of New Zealand has to be committing to living in the house for a significant part of each year they have it.
The absence of a register and associated limitations to ensure that land – developed or not – cannot simply be purchased for the sake of purchasing land is appalling. But more appalling is the fact that no one seems to be rushing to implement one. The register is something that should be the responsibility of the Department of Internal Affairs with input from Housing New Zealand.
Also a concern is the absence of a Warrant of Fitness type scheme to verify that every dwelling is up to an acceptable standard, that ensures all houses which are not are brought up to standard or made unavailable for rent. There are several reasons for this needing to be acted on quickly:
- The cost from preventable illnesses caused by living in substandard accommodation is unacceptably high and costing the economy
- There are twin crises in Auckland and Christchurch caused by different issues, but both are causing social problems that will turn into major long term headaches before long
- The housing stock is at a critically low level caused in part by Government policy of selling stock; in part by large scale demolition in Christchurch of uninhabitable homes; in part by huge overseas demand for residential property
The Government has in the past also said that the Resource Management Act hinders property development. Aside from being wilfully ignorant of the true nature of the R.M.A. the Government bills to supposedly “streamline” the Act, have largely missed the mark and if one reads between the lines, “streamline” should be interpreted as “weakening”, i.e. weakening the Act.