Foreign capital should be regulated—survey

by Ephraim Vecina09 Mar 2016
Foreign ownership of Canadian real estate has long been a contentious issue for consumers and industry players alike. Even the CMHC has weighed in on the issue, with head Evan Siddall saying last fall that overseas capital is responsible for the recently observed price spikes in luxury housing.
“In Vancouver and Toronto, it is very possible that foreign buyers account for a substantial portion of the demand for pricier, luxury single-family homes,” Siddall said in November, although he admitted that hard numbers on the phenomenon have yet to come in.
A live forum by CBC News on Monday (March 7) surveyed Canadian users’ take on the matter, and the discussion revealed that most domestic consumers wish for tighter regulation of foreign money moving through Canada’s markets.
In particular, users cited the increased incidence of vacant-but-owned homes as emblematic of the problem of greater foreign prominence.
“Levy a tax on ‘underoccupied’ residences. Collect data from utilities providers which should strongly indicate whether a property or unit is actually occupied,” user CougarCommenter wrote.
“Had another person acquired the property as a residence, they would be an income- , payroll- and sales tax-paying member of the community. You as a non-resident, non-participant give nothing back to Canada,” CougarCommenter said.
User Jeff Quigley concurred with the observation, adding that retroactive regulation would greatly help with improving affordability.
“To correct housing prices you need to have three things happen: 1. Raise interest rates 2. Outlaw shadow flipping and discourage any speculation, with massive taxes on it 3. Severely tax foreign owners at least 50 per cent of the assessed value unless they can prove residency at least six months a year,” Quigley noted.
Other survey participants begged to differ, saying that the problem lies closer to home than most Canadians realize.
“This is a perceived problem to make people blame the bogeyman while ignoring the real cause of the problem (people over-borrowing),” user mrclam stated.
Still others argued that regulation would be the worst possible move, especially in an economy hurting from the continuous global oil price crashes.
“Why would we dissuade investment in this country? There are tens of thousands of jobs being created in the construction industry. We don't need some interventionist political agenda messing up free enterprise based on folklore surrounding foreign ownership,” user Dean said.

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