Apparently, a simple question that can migrants on residential-class visas are eligible to buy affordable homes or residential property after the recently introduced foreign buyers ban does not have a simple answer, courtesy the level of confusion and dearth of knowledge among the housing experts is appalling, if not alarming.
A Kiwi-Indian couple’s dream of buying their first home has gone kaput just on the day when they were about to pick up the keys leaving them aghast, stunned, almost-homeless, and short-changed of their much hard-earned money (read the full story here).
The couple had paid around $65,500 to the builder through their solicitor as the deposit towards their first home, only to be told that they were not eligible to buy a residential property at the first place and therefore standing on the verge of losing the deposit.
The entire experience of buying “Auckland Housing Program’s affordable home at McLennan Park” has turned into a nightmare recalls Jayant and Aakansha Sharma – relatively new migrants who are appalled about the lack of accurate information around the eligibility of residence visa holders to buy their first homes in New Zealand.
This might be after the government had introduced last year, with much fanfare, the foreign buyers ban of residential property in New Zealand, which categorically allows only citizens and people on residential visas to buy residential properties.
The unfortunate story of Aakansha and Jayant Sharma, who had first arrived in the country in 2015 on a student visa and work visa respectively and subsequently acquiring residence in 2018, is a stark reminder of that probably, in the absence of the desired level of awareness in the market, migrants are at risk.
In this couple’s case, they had disclosed upfront from the very beginning to almost every real estate agent, builder, developer, and the solicitor assisting them in the first-home buying process that they were only residents, and not permanent residents yet, if that is a predicament toward buying a residential property.
Rarely would anyone imagine that such an honest upfront disclosure, along with a much elusive 10 per cent deposit in pocket towards their first home in Auckland’s current housing market, would still swirl them into a whirlwind experience of distress, shame, guilt and months of a legal battle.
Surprisingly, this lack of information is not limited amongst individual prospective migrant resident-buyers, who, as this story reveal, bear the escalatory costs singularly alone, but the so called professionals and experts who are supposed to assist the home-buyers navigate through the process.
What does the law on foreign buyers ban say?
The Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018 that came into force on 22 October 22, 2018, clearly states eligibility of who can buy a residential property in New Zealand as follows.
“The changes prevent certain overseas people from buying a residential property in New Zealand. With some exceptions for Australian and Singaporean citizens, anyone who is not a New Zealand citizen or is not ‘ordinarily resident’ in New Zealand, is an overseas person.”
“Ordinarily resident is a clear test of four parts – the person must have a Residence class visa, must have lived in New Zealand for the past 12 months, have been present in New Zealand for at least 183 days of the past 12 months, and be a tax resident,” the information on the website of government’s Land Information New Zealand (https://www.linz.govt.nz/) said.
In the case of this couple, the LINZ had apparently approved their eligibility on the four criteria mentioned as above – being a resident, having lived in NZ for the past 12 months, having lived more than 183 days in last 12 months and is a tax resident.
However, Housing New Zealand came back to the couple and their solicitor to announce that they were ineligible to buy the concerned Auckland Housing Program property at McLennan Park Takanini.
It is not clear yet if the denial of eligibility was a sweeping blanket denial for any residential property in New Zealand.
Or was it for this particular property in question, which the couple has confirmed to the Indian Weekender that it was not a “KiwiBuild property.” At best, the couple knows that the property was in the category of “owner-occupied property” as mentioned on their contract.
However, there is no readily available information around different categories of properties that can be purchased by resident class holders’ migrants.
Clearly, it seems there is no synchronisation between the two government departments – LINZ and Housing New Zealand in this case.
Enquiries had been sent to the department of Housing New Zealand, and the offices of the Ministers of Hosing Dr Megan Woods and Associate Finance Minister David Parker, and the response is awaited.
Regardless, of the response for this particular case, what is apparent that the level of information and clarity around different categories of houses available in the market – such as affordable homes, owner-occupier category – and the eligibility of genuine migrant residents who are working hard to fulfil their Kiwi-dream and owning first homes, is at best, confusing and unhelpful.