News / Vancouver

Foreign home buyer tax ‘too late’ for most Metro Vancouverites: poll

90 per cent support effort. But BC Liberals' own voters appear to have turned on the ruling party over skyrocketing housing prices.

Students walk past a housing development at UBC's Vancouver campus.

David P. Ball / Metro

Students walk past a housing development at UBC's Vancouver campus.

“A few years too late.”

“Could have been a lot faster and sooner.”

“A cover-up … to show they’re doing something about it.”

That’s how an admittedly unscientific sampling of Lower Mainland residents in Waterfront Station reacted on Thursday after work to the B.C. government’s move this week to slap a 15 per cent tax on foreign national buyers this week.

The commuters closely reflect the results of a new poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute which found an overwhelming majority of residents — 90 per cent — support the new tax measure, but are not confident it will work.

Metro asked commuters what they thought had caused rising house prices, and the majority said “foreign ownership,” though two disagreed, saying it was more because of the quality of life and environment in the region.

“I think it's foreign investment, just because of the money I've seen people pour in,” said 33-year-old Richmond homeowner Patria Kishida. “I know for a fact that some people buy things and flip the houses before they move in. It sucks — it's hard to make a living. It's frustrating.”

She said she fully supports the new property transfer tax, but said she’s unsure whether it will work or not.

“It hopefully makes things better for us,” she said. “I think it's a few years late, but it's better than nothing.”

For Sahab Moffedi, “money coming in from out-of-country” is solely to blame for high prices by driving up demand without any increase in supply.

“I think it's just a cover-up — they're trying to show that they're doing something about it, not whether it will actually work,” the Vancouver renter said. “We'll have to see if it's going to actually work, but I don't know if it will.”

A Coquitlam homeowner, meanwhile, expressed a fear that the 15 per cent tax was too high and could hurt property values of citizens or worsen inflation. Sam Han said prices have mainly risen because “Vancouver is the safest city in the world, and the environment is one of the best.”

But he, like every person Metro spoke to, felt the government was “too late” to take action. That's also the result the Angus Reid Insitute's self-commissioned poll discovered.

A significant 82 per cent of the 727 Metro Vancouver residents polled online between July 26 to 28 also said the tax move was “overdue — government should have acted sooner,” while only 10 per cent thought the timing was right. The margin of error was listed as comparable to 3.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

And although 71 per cent of respondents believed the new property transfer tax was a “step in the right direction,” 67 per cent expressed dissatisfaction with B.C.’s handling of housing issues — just over half of them “very dissatisfied.”

Only three per cent felt the government had done enough to solve the problem.

“We have seen people in this region clamouring for government action, not just for a year but for longer than that,” said Angus Reid Institute’s executive director Shuchi Kurl in a phone interview. “For the longest time, there was a sense of deflection and dismissal from the provincial government.

“Clearly the BC Liberals have got religion on this issue — and very quickly.”

Among respondents, 65 per cent believed that foreign nationals’ investments — those without citizenship or permanent residency in Canada — was the main cause of rising prices, following by 41 per cent blaming investment by “wealthy people,” and 37 per cent saying vacant homes.

It’s not just people who would never vote for the BC Liberals who criticized the government response, either.

According to the survey, 77 per cent of people who voted BC Liberal in the last election said the government was too late to the table.

“Clearly this was a vulnerability for the provincial Liberals,” Kurl said. “It’s among their own base.”

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