IMF Blasts New Zealand's "Discriminatory" Ban On Home Sales To Foreigners
22 April, 2018
Amid reports that 40,000 kiwis were living on the streets or in emergency shelters thanks to an acute housing crisis in the nation of nearly 5 million, New Zealand's Labour-led government knew it needed to take drastic action to cool the country's white hot housing market - or at least convince the public that it was doing something.
The government has initiated an ambitious policy agenda to restore housing affordability, which appropriately focuses on strengthening supply and lowering tax distortions . The agenda includes several work streams.
The KiwiBuild program aims to increase housing supply at affordable price points. The Urban Growth Agenda aims to address regulatory, planning and other policies that reduce development capacity for growth, along with the under-funding of local infrastructure development and maintenance. The government has already announced the extension of the bright-line test on sale of residential property from within two years of purchase to within five years and also proposes to limit negative gearing from rental properties. A Tax Working Group is considering possible additional reform, including a broader capital gains tax on real estate investment and land tax reform, although its mandate is narrow on the latter. These reforms are complementary, and the success of the housing policy agenda will depend on well-coordinated progress on all fronts.
A ban of residential real estate purchases by nonresidents is unlikely to have a significant impact on housing affordability. The proposed ban in the draft amendment to the Overseas Investment Act is a capital flow management measure (CFM) under the IMF’s Institutional View on capital flows. The measure is unlikely to be temporary or targeted, and foreign buyers seem to have played a minor role in New Zealand’s residential real estate markets recently. The broad housing policy agenda above, if fully implemented, would address most of the potential problems associated with foreign buyers on a less discriminatory basis.