Protect our hot property
•April 13, 2010
IF you want to buy an Australian home, you should first have to call Australia home.
It's as simple as that.
As overseas investors with bottomless pockets outbid Aussies at home auction after home auction, we have to wonder just what's going on with the Great Australian Dream of home ownership.
Has the Australian Dream become the Asian dream instead?
如果你想要在澳洲买房子，那你首先必须把澳洲称之为家。这个道理非常简单，所以当海外投资者带着大把大把的钱来到澳洲，在一个又一个房屋拍卖会上以高昂的价钱将澳人踢出局后，我们不禁要问，自置居所的伟大澳洲梦（Great Australian Dream）出了什么问题？难道澳洲梦已经变成了亚洲人的梦了？
In the past year or so since foreign investment rules were relaxed to allow foreign citizens to buy houses here, Chinese-speaking buyers in particular have led a frenzied buy-up of prime Melbourne real estate.
The spree has been so strong that real estate agents and residents say blocks in some Melbourne suburbs are now almost 80 per cent foreign-owned.
But the problem is that no one seems to know exactly who has bought what, since the rules were changed a year or so ago to allow temporary residents to buy a house here.
But the punters do know that prices are going through the roof, and it's getting harder and harder to buy into the housing market.
Even Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens has admitted foreign ownership is affecting Aussie house prices. But no one seems to know exactly how to quantify it.
And that's not all.
Our suburbs are changing as swathes of properties are being bought by foreigners seeking a home purely as an investment.
Because they're investors, often they're not personally interested in the communities they are buying into. For some there's no respect for community, history or heritage.
Perfectly good houses that come with large leafy gardens are being flattened to make way for massive mansions with tiny courtyards.
Many of the buyers are families of overseas students, and other temporary residents who have little connection with the area they buy into.
The real trouble is that we can't turn back the clock. Daggy, but liveable - and affordable - houses are being razed and replaced by monstrosities that sometimes soar three storeys.
Blocks sit vacant for months as development applications are made, and neighbours say existing houses are often left empty for months at a time.
And our top public schools, like Balwyn High - which many Australian kids are desperate to get into - are a beacon for many foreigners.
Stop and think for a minute.
Why are we allowing these temporary Australians to buy up our homes?
We don't have enough houses for Australians to buy or rent. So why are we allowing foreign nationals with the biggest chequebooks to buy their way into our country?
There are 1800 people a week coming into Victoria - a figure that has doubled in the past five years. But we're only building 20 per cent more homes, so there's clearly an imbalance. In that context, why are we allowing a whole new category of buyers into our market?
It's the attitude of these foreign buyers that's also bugging me.
According to a Balwyn real estate agent, who didn't want to be named, many of these foreign buyers are aggressive in getting what they want - our houses.
"Their intention is to knock everyone else out of the water," she said. "They try to put in an offer early in a sales campaign at the top end, to bring up the price range to knock some of the smaller people out straight away.
"It works, of course - and Australians don't stand a chance. Australians are exceeding their home-buying budget out of desperation. There is a lot of anxiety out there about this."
At a North Balwyn property that was recently open for inspection, five of the 11 groups that went through were Chinese and two others were from India, the agent said.
John Bongiorno is a director of Marshall White, a blue-ribbon agency doing very well out of all this. It has even hired a Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking agent, Michael Liu, whose web page says he is "happy to advise potential vendors on their property's presentation to maximise its appeal to Chinese buyers".
Bongiorno says such buyers now account for up to 15 per cent of the market in the Boroondara Council area - which is an astonishing proportion in just 12 months. Others say it's more like one-third of the market.
Robert Larocca, manager for research for the REIV, said the impact was mostly being felt in the inner east, but there was a flow-on effect as well.
This makes sense - if buyers in Balwyn lose out at auction due to the inflated market, they'll be forced to look further out, thus displacing buyers in Blackburn and Doncaster, and so on.
约翰•波吉尔诺（John Bongiorno）是一流的房产中介Marshall White的负责人。为了吸引和满足中国顾客的需要，该中介甚至雇佣了一个会讲普通话和广东话的经纪人迈克尔•刘（Michael Liu）。波吉尔诺称，在Boroondara Council地区，中国买家占了15%。与12个月前相比，这个增长快得惊人。而有的人则认为这个数据应是三分之一。REIV研究所的经理罗伯特•拉罗卡（Robert Larocca）称这一增长最明显的是在市内东区。而这当然具有波动效应。这并不难理解。如果一个购房者在Balwyn的房屋拍卖会上被不断哄高的价格挤了出去的话，他们就不得不到更远的城区去购房。这些人又取代了Blackburn和Doncaster的买主，如此依次类推。
But without knowing who's buying what, it's impossible to know what this impact is. It would be a simple matter for the Foreign Investment Review Board to go to the Titles Office to ensure that rules are not being broken.
But Larocca says this kind of data just isn't available.
Don't get me wrong. I welcome migrants coming into our beautiful city - in fact, half of us have come from somewhere else, so we should revel in a vibrant, multicultural community.
But migrants make a conscious decision to come here for a better life. They're here because they want to be part of the Australian way of life.
They're not here to invest in our real estate, exploit loopholes for financial reasons, destroy the character of our suburbs, and then move on.
Clearly, I'm not the only one worrying about this issue. The Reserve Bank is "taking a close interest", according to Governor Stevens.
And the Government has launched a review of 50 properties recently bought by foreigners.
But the emphasis seems to be on cracking down on those breaking the rules.
No one is questioning whether the rules should be there in the first place.
Make no mistake - the Government changed the rules and opened the floodgates, and it's in their power to close them again.
And this should be done immediately.
Let's make sure that only Australian residents buy Australian homes.
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