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B.C.'s 15% Tax on Foreign Home Buyers
 July 27 2016     Posted by Pauline Hardy

B.C.’s 15% tax on foreign homebuyers could drive money to other parts of Canada
A new crackdown on overseas investors in British Columbia’s residential real estate could easily end up driving that money to other parts of the country, according to reports out Tuesday.
Foreign buyers will pay an extra 15% in property tax fees on residential real estate in Vancouver, a move to cool the
country’s hottest market that Ontario might be smart to follow, says BMO economist.  Citing concerns over affordability, B.C. slapped an additional 15 per cent property tax transfer fee on all foreign investors, and entities representing them, for purchases in Metro Vancouver effective Aug. 2  
“With any tax change, there may be some unintended consequences. For one, the move may shift foreign attention to other markets in B.C., such as Victoria, or elsewhere in Canada,” said Michael Dolega, a senior economist with
Toronto-Dominion Bank, in a note released Tuesday. “Even prior to the new policy announcement, we believed that
foreign investors had already begun to gravitate to the more affordable Toronto market. As such, prices in Toronto
could see some significant upside pressure in the coming months as foreigners look to new markets.”
Dolega thinks the new rules, which include giving the city of Vancouver the power to tax owners of vacant property,
should help cool the market.  “It is being implemented at a time when Vancouver’s resale housing market has already been showing significant signs of cooling. Existing home sales fell by 14 per cent in the three months since March and the average home price has dipped two per cent. In addition, new housing construction has responded to the pick-up in demand, and hit a record high in the first half of 2016. This additional supply was already poised to return the market closer to balanced territory,” said the economist, noting other jurisdictions like Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong have also implemented rules on foreign ownership and flipping.
Using some initial data from 19 days in June, the B.C. government has determined that five per cent of investors in
Metro Vancouver are foreign. Using an assumption the foreign share is in the range of five to 14 per cent, Dolega
predicts the new rules will reduce sales by 15 to 20 per cent over the next three quarters and lead to decline in
average prices of about five per per cent.
Meanwhile in Ontario, where prices are rising by about 16 per cent annually in its largest city, Finance Minister
Charles Sousa said he will look “very closely” at the new tax from his provincial counterparts.  In a statement, Sousa said the Ontario government “recognize(s) that all levels of government have a role to play” in addressing housing affordability and the stability of the market.  “That is why we are participating in a working group with the federal government, the B.C. government, and the cities
of Toronto and Vancouver,” the statement says. “We remain open to options that would help relieve the burden of
housing affordability and make everyday life easier for the people of our province. We will continue monitoring the
housing market in both Ontario and British Columbia over the course of the next few months to see the impacts of
this decision.”
Doug Porter, the chief economist with Bank of Montreal, has suggested Ontario look at a similar tax, especially given
its fiscal position and the revenue the tax would generate.
“It comes down to who the potential buyers are,” said Porter, referring to whether those buyers will shift their purchases to Toronto from Vancouver. “Are they completely indifferent to where they are buying? I can’t believe they are all falling into that. I think the city actually matters. Over time there might be some spillover.”
Alyssa Furtado, chief executive of RateHub, said she can see some of the foreign investment trickling over to
Toronto, but predicts that if it happens Ontario will see a similar tax.  “If we continue to see prices or rate of appreciation go up in Toronto, it has to be looked at as a lever,” said Furtado, adding that there are indications foreign ownership in the city may already be higher than some think.
Finn Poschmman, chief executive of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, said he expects there will continue to
be a regional focus for investors, but says the tax is a loss for Vancouver and Canada.
“For people who are looking for a West Coast real estate investment, or a place to live or build a business in future,
more money will flow to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco — or tiny Vancouver, Wash.,” he said. “What is unfortunate
is that Vancouver, B.C., will lose some of those people who would have invested in a place to live for a child attending school, with the intention of establishing permanent residency and a business.”
Vancouver realtors reacted with fury to the announcement, especially the short notice, and demanded transactions
that are in the process of closing be exempt from the new tax.
“Housing affordability concerns all of us who live in the region. Implementing a new real estate tax, however, with just eight days’ notice and no consultation with the professionals who serve home buyers and sellers every day
needlessly injects uncertainty into the market,” said Dan Morrison, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater
Vancouver.B.C.’s 15% tax on foreign homebuyers could drive money to other parts of Canada.

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