31 Aug 2023

National's property tax policies bring optimism for rental property owners

10:41 am on 31 August 2023
Houses as seen from Mount Eden summit in Auckland, New Zealand.

(File image) Photo: Unsplash / Nick Sarvari

A real estate company and property investors group are optimistic about the National Party's policies on offshore purchases and restoring interest deductibility for rental properties.

On Wednesday, National unveiled its tax plan, including a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers of houses worth more than $2 million and aiming to have interest deductibility for rental properties fully restored by 2026.

New Zealand Property Investors Federation (NZPIF) says rental property owners are facing financial difficulties and need this tax break, but Renters United says people relying on interest deductibility to survive should not be in the business in the first place.

NZPIF president Sue Harrison said rising interest rates and no relief from Inland Revenue or banks meant members were faced with tax bills they could not afford.

"If you can't afford to pay the taxes, you have to consider selling the house, which many people are doing and are waiting to see what happens in this election to make that decision and I know many people in this situation."

However, Renters United president Geordie Rogers told Morning Report interest deductibility had not completely disappeared under Labour, rather it encouraged buyers to build new homes to help ease the housing crisis.

"So what we have at the moment is landlords who are saying look, I'm actually not willing to help us get out of the housing crisis so I'm going to complain about it rather than just shifting my investment into new builds and helping people get into homes, get people out of cars, out of motels - that's exactly what this policy does and that's why we've seen an increase in investors moving into new builds. It is adding to supply and it will add downward pressure."

Harrison clarified there was a difference between landlords and rental property owners. In New Zealand, if the owner of a house uses a property management company, then the company was considered to be the landlord.

There were also various factors which meant rental property owners could not afford to build new houses, she said.

"We're in this secondhand marketplace of making sure older houses are in good order and do meet healthy homes for a good tenant rental market," Harrison told Morning Report.

"Then you've got the factor of if a home is sold it's sold to a first-home buyer, that would be great, but the tenants that I know ... are not people in a situation where they're ready to a buy house, there's very few of them, and that's why they're renting.

"The finances of buying a new home are meaning that you have take money out of your own pocket and your own wages and people that own these houses work in real jobs ... and they have to take on the risk."

Rogers said those who were complaining were people who could not afford to be rental property owners.

"People who do have capital upfront, leveraging that capital to buy more properties, that's pushing prices of houses up and that's ultimately because people expect to be able to get a future gain out of that.

"They need to be moving these investments into things that are actually productive rather than soaking money out of people who are out working, in many cases, multiple jobs to pay their landlord's way."

But Harrison rejected that they were doing it for a future gain, saying the system had to work with these property owners to provide places to live for people.

"It's trying to get their kids through university or have a retirement that's worth having and keep their house good, so there's a whole lot of factors going on there that are in this marketplace, and we are in a marketplace, we're not adversaries, we're all in the same room.

Rogers rebutted that, saying it was not landlords who provided housing. "The people who provide housing are the people working in councils who make sure that zoning is done, they're builders, they're architects, they're engineers, those people provide housing, we need to be investing in them."

Offshore purchases policy 'a good positive move'

Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said National's policies "pour petrol" on the housing market, and described their claim to be able to grab $740m per year from foreign buyers as "voodoo costings".

Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson told Morning Report he did not believe it would stoke the fire for Auckland's housing market.

"I think it's quite a good positive move when we look at the number of properties that sell over $2 million in Auckland, if we go back to the heyday of 2021, it was just over 1500 that Barfoot and Thompson sold, and we sell about a third of the properties over $2 million," Thompson said.

Barfoot and Thompson managing director Peter Thompson

Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson Photo: Barfoot and Thompson / Getty Images

"What I like about it is it does bring in foreign buyers that have got to have a net worth to be able to buy those properties and most of those are going to be high-profile business people that will bring not just the money for the property but many other things, like start-up companies and staff and things like that."

Thompson also did not believe it would have an impact on the market for first-home buyers because it was set at a high rate of $2m.

"If a first-home buyer is looking at $2 million, they should've been into property a lot earlier. I think the average first-home buyer is looking around about $700,000 to about $1.1 million-$1.2 million here in Auckland, and there's many properties that are available for them at the moment."

But he said it was hard to know what appetite there was from foreign buyers, considering the more restrictive Overseas Investment Amendment was implemented in 2018.

"I've been travelling for real estate a little bit in the last six months, there's a lot of people wanting to buy in New Zealand but they're bypassing New Zealand to go to places like Australia and Vancouver and Canada, because of the policies over there. And it's very interesting to see that what National have introduced here is exactly what's applying currently in those two cities."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs