Housing crisis: ACT says one-off migrant visa will make house prices 'go crazy'

The ACT Party says the Government's decision to grant residency to up to 165,000 migrant workers and their families will drive house prices up even further.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi this week said the one-off visa - called for by the National Party and the Greens, as well as migrant worker groups and activists - would provide "a way forward for our migrant families who have been long disrupted by COVID-19".

"The changes give migrants certainty about their future here, allowing them to continue putting down roots, and will help reunite many families who were separated by the border restrictions that prevent COVID-19 entering the community."

New applications for residence visas for skilled migrants had been on pause since the first lockdown.

ACT "congratulated" Faafoi on the move, but says it'll drive house prices up because "people locked out of the market through not having residency will now enter it".

Migrants without residency can't presently buy property.

"While it's great news for people who've chosen to make New Zealand home and local businesses, it will increase pressure on the housing market," said ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden.

"More people will be competing to purchase homes, at a time when there is record low housing stock."

Prices have increased rapidly since the first lockdown, fuelled by record-low interest rates and a shortage that is only slowly being chipped away. The median price of a home nationwide is now $850,000, up more than $200,000 in just 18 months. 

When in Opposition, Labour said rising house prices were at least party down to offshore buyers, but since tightening ownership rules - not to mention the lack of immigration since March 2020 - prices have continued to rise regardless. 

"I've heard that mortgage brokers are being flooded with emails and phone calls from people on work visas asking how they can purchase a property once their residency application is approved," said van Velden. 

"Housing Minister Megan Woods needs to answer what preparation or advice she sought before the decision was made… expect to see the housing market continue to go crazy."

Woods has been contacted for a response.