PHOTO: Foreign investors sparked a wave of home-building. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

They were blamed for driving up prices; in fact, they’ve served to take the heat out of the market.

There’s a familiar refrain in Australia when public discussion turns to the country’s eye-wateringly expensive housing market: Foreigners are to blame.

Public figures from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to populist entrepreneur Dick Smith to far-right Senator Fraser Anning all agree that immigration is a key reason why the country’s homes are some of the world’s priciest.

At the same time, housing appears to be a relatively minor issue ahead of the country’s federal elections this month, with climate and the economydriving political debate instead.