Labour blames the Chinese

The Herald reports:

The first picture has emerged of Chinese buying patterns in Auckland’s pressure-cooker housing market — and it suggests a powerful, big-spending influence.

Real-estate figures leaked to the Labour Party, which cover almost 4,000 house sales by one unidentified firm from February to April, indicate that people of Chinese descent accounted for 39.5 per cent of the transactions in the city in that period.

Yet Census 2013 data shows ethnic Chinese who are New Zealand residents or citizens account for just 9 per cent of Auckland’s population. …

A similar trend appears in a frequency comparison of buyers’ names — Chinese names make up about eight out of the 20 most common ones among Auckland residents but fill 19 of the top 20 places for house buyers.

It is not known if the Chinese buyers were based here or overseas.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford claimed the data, which represents 45 per cent of all Auckland sales over the three months, showed for the first time the scale of an issue that was pricing first-home buyers out of the market.

“It’s staggering evidence that strongly suggests there’s a significant offshore Chinese presence in the Auckland real estate market. It could not possibly be all Chinese New Zealanders buying; that’s implausible.”

This is an analysis based on surnames. I recall when Labour were last in power they would write letters to National MP Annabel Young in Mandarin, because they assumed with her surname Young, she was Chinese. Annabel found this amusing.

Keith Ng responds on Public Address:

I don’t own a house, but if I bought one, I hope that cynical politicians wouldn’t blame people whose “last name sounds Chinese” for..

driving up house prices beyond the reach of hard-working Kiwi first home buyers if people whose “last name sounds Chinese” can’t be a hard-working Kiwi, as if we are taking their houses.

That is how the story is framed – Chinese vs Kiwis, as if the two are different things.

Here’s the thing with Labour’s “analysis” of Auckland house sales, which the Herald are running with. Behind the curtain, there’s nothing more to it than going through house sale records and asking “do these names sound Chinese?”. It cannot tell you whether these people are speculators, investors or owner-occupiers, and it cannot tell you whether they are offshore, immigrants from the 90s, or if their ancestors have been here since the goldrush.

You can’t magically MATH your way from a last name to a residency status. They have one piece of real data: “39.5% of last names in a list of house sales sound Chinese”. All the assertions that Labour are making beyond this are complete bullshit.

If your name sounds Chinese, you’re Chinese!

Twyford is doing this because all he has is “39.5% of last names in a list of house sales sound Chinese”. He wants it to mean “a lot of houses are bought by overseas Chinese”. But equally, it could mean that Chinese people in Auckland:

  • Are new migrants without a house
  • Have more money
  • Move more frequently
  • More likely to be of household-forming age
  • More likely to get help from their parents
  • More likely to invest in real estate

There’s a long list of possibilities, but in the absence of evidence, that’s all they are: Possibilities. Wanting to believe in one doesn’t make it true.

Rob Salmond has responded to Ng on Public Address, defending his data.

Ng continues:

The subtext of this story is that people with Chinese-sounding names are foreigners full of cash who are buying all our houses and chasing hardworking Kiwis out of their homes. This is straight-up scapegoating, placing the blame for a complex, emotive problem at the feet of an ethnic group.

Let’s be grown-ups about this. Twyford can say “we’re not criticising local Chinese” all he likes. Hell, he might as well tell us that some of his best friends are Chinese. But when his headline is screaming “the Chinese are buying all our houses”, when he says a “tsunami” of Chinesemoney is heading to our shores, it’s clear that he’s blaming Chinese people, and it’s obvious that’s the message that will be received.

Not a dog whistle, as dog whistles are subtle.

Phil Twyford, Labour, and the Herald – you are fueling racial division in this country. You are encouraging people to question whether ethnically Chinese people ought to be able to buy houses. You are saying that people with “Chinese-sounding names” are dangerous foreigners who will destroy the Kiwi way of life with real estate purchases.

You have done this, and you can’t shirk responsibility for your actions by trying to deny what you are doing, as you are doing it.

I think they call it desperation.

This is cynical, reckless dogwhistling. Like Winston Peters, just without the smirk.

Fortunately we soon won’t have to rely on dodgy data from Labour. National a few months ago announced changes which will mean we will know if buyers are residents or not. Thanks to this law change, we will be able to look at whether non-resident buyers are a major factor in Auckland house prices, and then have a sensible debate on whether law changes are needed. That’s a lot better way of doing it than scare-mongering based on surnames.

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