Australia forces foreign owners of 15 properties to sell

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia has forced the foreign owners of 15 illegally bought properties to sell, as the government tries to placate voters unhappy about a lack of affordable housing.

The government is ramping up enforcement of overseas investment rules that have until last year been rarely applied.

The latest round, announced by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Monday, takes the total number of forced property sales to 61 since May last year with a combined value of A$107 million ($82 million), the government said.

The latest 15 properties were owned by nationals of China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Foreigners must seek approval from the government’s Foreign Investment Review Board before purchasing property in Australia.

Home prices in Sydney have doubled since 2009, making Australia’s largest city the second most unaffordable city in the world after Hong Kong, according to researcher Demographia.

Separately, Australia has cited national security issues for rejecting foreign-led bids for infrastructure assets, including the A$16.2 billion ($12.43 billion) Ausgrid electricity grid.

Reporting by Cecile Lefort; Editing by Louise Ireland, Bernard Orr