Tories look to borrow a page from Australian playbook

As voters get ready to head to the polls on Monday, investors are still being wooed by the incumbent Conservatives who are promising to consider a ban on foreign investors who buy existing residential housing in tight markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, an idea they’ve borrowed from their counterparts down under.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper floated the idea in his party’s full election platform, which was just released, that a re-elected Conservative government would consider an Australian-style solution to the issue.

“Given the importance of homeownership, our government wants to make sure it remains a dream within reach for the average Canadian family,” read the platform.

“Some reports have suggested that speculative foreign non-resident buyers are a significant factor in driving homes out of the price range of average families, especially in Vancouver and Toronto. If speculators are driving up the cost of housing to unaffordable levels, that’s something the government can and should address.

“Other countries, like Australia, have put in place regulations that limit the ability of foreign buyers to purchase existing houses for investment purposes.”

The Australian policy is supposed to prevent wealthy foreign buyers from driving the price of average homes beyond the reach of Australian families, while at the same time growing the country’s housing stock.

But not everyone agrees this policy works, pointing out that Sydney’s housing market is equally unaffordable as Vancouver’s.

“We’re not intending to zero in a punitive way on people who come here to invest,” B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong told The Vancouver Sun. “Our general approach in building the economy has been that foreign investment is good for B.C.”
 
 

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