More than 3 percent of Queenstown house sales going to foreign buyers amid shortage

More than 3 percent of Queenstown house sales in the last financial quarter went to overseas buyers amid a crippling property shortage in the resort town. 

In the June 2023 quarter, 3.4 percent of housing transfers in the Queenstown Lakes District were to non-New Zealand citizens or resident buyers, according to Statistics NZ

It's a big rise from a year prior when only 2.4 percent of Queenstown housing transfers were going to overseas buyers.

Queenstown had the second-highest proportion of overseas buyers within a territorial authority, only behind Waitematā (4.5 percent). The next highest was Christchurch City at 0.6 percent.  

The total number of Queenstown houses transferred to overseas buyers for the year to June was 66, up from 54 in the previous 12-month period.

Stats NZ's latest figures come amid reports of migrant workers in the resort town living in their cars due to a shortage of rental properties.  

Queenstown Housing Initiative co-founder Lindsay Waterfield told Newshub last month no solutions had been put forward to fix the crisis.

"Someone's going to get sick and there's no sense of urgency," she said. "Someone might die.

"There are still people sleeping in their cars right now and it's probably -2C right now, and there's still no immediate fix."

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Glyn Lewers acknowledged his town had a problem.

"We're trying everything we can but we've got to follow the legislative process and also our availability for rentals that market has shrunk," he told Newshub last month.

In response to the latest housing transfer statistics, Lewers said it showed Queenstown remained an attractive place to live and work for both New Zealanders and people from overseas.

"We will be establishing further evidence and data as part of Action 1c) of the Joint Housing Action Plan," he said in a statement. "This will include understanding the types of dwellings and price range of dwellings that are being purchased."

Stats NZ said there were 30,102 homes transferred across the country in the June quarter, with just 0.4 percent going to non-New Zealand citizens or residents in total.

The "percentage of home transfers to no NZ citizens or resident-visa holders has been 0.6 percent or less since 2019", the statistics agency said. That came after the incoming Labour-led Government banned overseas buyers from purchasing existing New Zealand houses. 

The law has a few exceptions, including for some new homes and for buyers from Australia and Singapore. 

In the December 2019 quarter, just more than a year after the ban took effect, only 0.3 percent of New Zealand home transfers were to foreign buyers - down from 2.3 percent a year prior.