Twyford admits Chinese name mistake

Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford has conceded that Labour’s profiling and analysis of Chinese sounding names was “a less than masterful piece of political communication”.

It was highly embarrassing for Labour and they were strongly criticised, including from the left.

Richard Harman revealed Twyford’s admission at Politik: Phil Twyford – rebuilding after the Chinese names affair.

Mr Twyford, made a controversial entry into the debate on foreign buyers last July with his release of statistics based on Chinese sounding names of house buyers in Auckland.

Now, over six months later he is prepared to concede that it was “a less than masterful piece of political communication” and he is careful to emphasise that he is talking about non-resident foreigners.

And that was the point of it though he says that offshore money probably accounts for 5 – 10% of the housing market.

However even that amount, he argues, has an impact at the margins of what is a market facing very tight supply constraints.

So what will Labour do about housing?

In a way Labour has disarmed itself in this battle by deciding to put the capital gains tax it went into the last two elections with on the table.

Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson earlier this year told POLITIK that Labour could consider extending National’s “brightline” capital gains tax out to five years.

But that’s as far as they would go.

This leaves Twyford scrambling to find a way to deal with the pervasive idea in New Zealand that property is a preferred investment option.

“Cracking down on property speculation is one of the things we have to do if we are going to turn this around,” he says.

“There is no question in my mind that there are four or five things we have to do and cracking down on speculation is one of them.

“We have said we are going to ban non-resident foreigners from speculating in housing and what we will do in Government is explore all the other legislative and policy things that currently drive vast amounts of capital into basically unproductive speculative real estate market which is damaging for home ownership and also the wider economy.”

But that’s about as specific as it gets.

“We’ve said we’re not looking at wholesale reform going into the next election,” he says.

But they also have their house building policy.

Labour plans to address those supply constraints with its Kiwibuild policy which would see 10,000 modest, “entry level” homes built every year for 10 years by Housing New Zealand onsold to private buyers.

That too poses its own challenges and Twyford concedes that the Resource Management Act is going to have to change to make it easier to build homes both within and without Auckland.

So will Labour work with National to reform the RMA?