Monday, June 19, 2006

Prejudice and property?

According to this Herald story (and I can't find anything on the Green party site, so it may be a misrepresentation), the Green leader, Russel Norman, is calling for (further) restrictions on foreigners buying NZ property in an effort to limit house price rises.

To me this smacks of racism, and I don't think it fits well in the policy of a progressive party.

I don't believe non-resident foreigners are a major factor in the NZ housing market, except maybe in a few places like Herne Bay or Queenstown. Returning Kiwis and new immigrants with pounds/euros/dollars to spend might be, but I can't believe the Greens want to stop permanent residents owning houses?

I'd suggest the following non-discriminatory measures that would work much better in controlling house price inflation:
- Just as the Reserve Bank has a target for general inflation, set a similar target for house price inflation and use mostly fiscal measures to achieve it. I'd suggest 2% under general inflation for the next five years.

- Introduce GST on larger mortgage payments (e.g. a mortgage over $300k).

- Introduce capital gains tax on house sales over say 500k (with an indexing allowance).

- Introduce a wealth tax on fortunes over, for instance, $2mln. Making this fall on any property in NZ would ensure that any "wealthy foreigners" would be making a fair contribution to the country.

All the above measures could be adjusted to achieve the inflation target (and abated to control a house price crash). The revenue could be used to reduce income tax and/or GST, helping ordinary people afford houses. They'd also help address the massive imbalance between taxes on capital and taxes on income in NZ (why is it that if I earn $80,000 working I pay 39% tax, while if I make the same amount of money speculating in property, I pay *no* tax).