Chinese property buying in Australia draws scrutiny of lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 5:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 5:14am

Foreign investment in Australia's housing market will be examined by a national parliamentary committee, its chairwoman said, following a study that said Chinese investors are squeezing out local buyers.

Kelly O'Dwyer said the House Standing Committee on Economics inquiry into affordable housing would probe the foreign investment framework to see whether it helped increase housing stock, and whether it was driving up prices.

"We know that the great Australian dream is to own your own home and we know that that's pretty difficult - even with two incomes and lots of years of savings and a large mortgage," O'Dwyer told ABC radio. "So we want to make sure that we're not making it even more difficult."

Chinese investment is a sensitive issue in Australia, where rural politicians have argued against selling land to foreigners, and there are indications of an influx in Chinese investors in housing.

Investment bank Credit Suisse this month estimated that Chinese investors could pour A$40 billion (HK$280 billion) into Australia's residential property over the next seven years and this could push up prices in one of the world's most expensive markets.

Credit Suisse said Chinese buyers - who are restricted to buying only new homes - purchased 12 per cent of new housing across Australia per year. But they concentrated their buying in Sydney and Melbourne, acquiring 18 per cent and 14 per cent of new supply respectively, meaning they were a much more powerful force in those cities where prices are climbing.

"We want to know though whether or not the current laws and the current framework is being properly adhered to and whether it is a truly distorting impact," O'Dwyer said.