News / Vancouver

#DontHave1Million calls on parties to match Harper’s foreign buyer data pledge

Vancouver affordable housing advocates want the Liberals, NDP and Green Party to promise to collect data on foreign real estate transactions, too.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper makes a campaign stop at the shipyards in North Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper makes a campaign stop at the shipyards in North Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.

Affordable housing advocates in Vancouver are calling on all federal parties to match Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise to collect data on foreign buyers in Canada’s housing market, a pledge he announced in North Vancouver Wednesday morning.

#DontHave1Million campaign organizer Eveline Xia was surprised by Harper’s announcement that acknowledged the need for data to figure out if foreign buyers are actually driving up housing prices and making it unaffordable for locals to enter the real estate market in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto. There is rampant speculation but limited evidence that foreign buyers, especially from China, are driving up the city’s real estate market.

“I think he’s thrown the gauntlet down and he’s definitely injected the affordable housing debate that’s been raging in Vancouver into the federal election,” Xia said after the speech where he pledged $500,000 for data collection.

“The other federal candidates should match this promise… collecting data should not be a partisan issue,” she said.

Xia, who started the viral hashtag about the plight of young professionals that can’t afford to stay in Vancouver, has long argued it’s impossible to make policy decisions without data on who is buying, where the money is coming from and whether homes are being purchased as investments and left empty. 

The federal Liberals and NDP did not respond to emails asking whether they would match the prime minister’s promise by Metro’s deadline.

While Vancouver’s city council has passed motions asking senior governments to collect data on foreign real estate buyers, governing party Vision Vancouver was less enthusiastic about Harper’s announcement even though it gives them what they want.

Coun. Kerry Jang (he spoke in place of Mayor Gregor Robertson, who is on vacation) called the announcement a “distraction” from the real problem – creating more affordable housing in a city with near zero vacancy rates.

“Collecting data is fine and good. We’re happy with the fact that the federal government wants to collect data. But what’s more important to me is what are you going to do with it?” Jang said.

Jang noted the Conservatives have gotten out of the housing game and made no promises for building co-op housing or supportive housing for people with mental illness. The city is asking for a real national housing program, which only the NDP has really offered so far, Jang said.

Jang also criticized the government’s record on data, noting they trashed the long-form census and ignore data that shows Insite is working.

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