News / Vancouver

Vancouver city councillor wants foreign-buyer restrictions on real estate

Adriane Carr is also calling on the B.C. government to create a 'flipping tax' that would apply to local residents as well

The Vancouver skyline seen from Jericho beach on May 19, 2016.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro

The Vancouver skyline seen from Jericho beach on May 19, 2016.

A local politician wants the city of Vancouver to pressure the B.C. government to take drastic measures to improve housing affordability.

Vancouver city councillor Adriane Carr plans to introduce a motion Tuesday asking council to support restrictions on foreign buyers in the real estate market, a property tax surcharge on existing foreign owners, and a ‘flipping tax.’ The motion echoes the B.C. Green Party's demands on housing.

“These are very desperate times for people,” said Carr, a Green Party councillor.

“As long as housing is treated as a speculative investment, we will never have affordable housing for the people who live and work here."

Vancouver has implemented a one-per cent empty homes tax and the province introduced a 15-per cent foreign-buyer tax last year. But those measures aren’t enough to tackle housing affordability head on, said Carr.

“People with wealth can afford to just pay the tax and that’s not necessarily going to solve the problem.”

That’s why she wants the provincial government to implement restrictions to prevent foreign buyers, no matter how rich they are, from buying certain types of property in Vancouver.

Some analysts, like urban planner Andy Yan, have called attention to the issue by releasing statistics that show non-residents own 10 per cent of the condos in Vancouver.

But others, like sociology professor Nathanael Lauster, say targeting foreigners may not be the most effective way to tackle high housing prices.

“I think we should target speculation. I’m not sure what targeting foreignness does for us,” Lauster told Metro in January.

He pointed out that according to the 2016 census, one in five Vancouverites own a second property and a policy on foreign buyers would do little to address that kind of speculation.

But one of Carr’s policy suggestions, the flipping tax, would apply to Vancouver residents as well, she confirmed.

The B.C. government has said it does not plan to include a foreign buyer ban in the budget, which comes out Tuesday.

Currently, people who do not hold Canadian citizenship or permanent residency are required to pay an additional 15 per cent tax on real estate purchases in B.C.

Vancouver has also implemented an empty homes tax, where owners of empty properties must pay an additional one per cent on their property tax, regardless of citizenship. The city has said it hopes the policy will increase Vancouver’s vacancy rate, which currently sits at 0.9 per cent.

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