B.C. Premier Christy Clark has rejected the idea of raising taxes for overseas investors who buy homes in Metro Vancouver, despite a petition that's attracted thousands of signatures.
Clark told CBC News a change like that could have a ripple effect.
"By moving foreign owners out of the market, housing prices will drop," she said, acknowledging it would benefit first-time buyers but not owners who are counting on the equity in their homes.
The average price of single-family homes in Vancouver have tripled in the past decade from $704,000 to $1.91 million — an increase of 173 per cent, said the Globe and Mail, citing data from the Vancity credit union.
One-third of the units at Vancouver House, a prominent new condo tower, have been sold to buyers from Asia, Europe and the U.S., developer Westbank told CBC News. Prices started at the $500,000 mark, with the smallest floor plan at 364 sq. ft.
An online petition calling for restrictions on foreign investment in Greater Vancouver has been signed by more than 18,000 people.
"The housing needs of Greater Vancouver residents are more important than the profit margins of foreign speculators," the petition states. "We demand that Premier Christy Clark, Mayor Gregor Robertson and all other mayors and city councillors of the Greater Vancouver Regional District introduce laws to curb foreign investment in residential real estate by the end of 2015."
It points to Australia's crackdown on foreign ownership of real estate as an example to follow. That country limits real estate options for overseas investors to new houses and apartments. It also collects and publishes statistics on property owned by people who are not permanent residents.
"The Australian government believes that foreign investment in the housing sector should increase the supply of homes, and should not be speculative in nature," reads an information sheet.
Breaking the foreign ownership rules comes with fines and legal action. In March, the government forced the sale of a Sydney mansion it said was illegally purchased by Chinese investors.
The Vancouver petition also pointed out:
The race or national origin of the investors who are purchasing real estate is irrelevant, and moreover, these investors have done nothing wrong—they are behaving in a financially rational manner within the rules that our government has set for them, and I wish them all the best. The onus to shape Canadian and British Columbian law is on us, not them.
Foreign buyers who don't move into their Vancouver-area homes and let them sit empty is a related issue that's causing concern for neighbours.
Brian and Linda Cooper told the National Post the empty $2-million mansion next door in the suburb of Richmond has unkept grass and newspapers piling up out front — but they can't find the owners to speak to them about it.
Richmond councillors have proposed a new bylaw that could see property owners fined for unsafe, vacant homes — often buildings awaiting redevelopment or resale — that drain city resources.
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