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Province says 3% of homes in BC bought by foreign nationals

Last Updated Jul 8, 2016 at 12:22 pm PST

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'It would almost be funny if it wasn't so insulting to people,' says NDP's housing critic on provincial data

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) –  The BC government says data suggests only three per cent of people buying homes in this province are foreign nationals.

However, this information is based on a very limited time frame from June 10th to June 29th.

According to the province’s numbers, 5.1 per cent of the purchases across Metro Vancouver were made by foreign buyers. In Richmond, we see that figure as high as 14 per cent. Burnaby sits at 11 per cent.

“Richmond’s known as a Chinese immigrant community, so I don’t think that one is so surprising,” says Housing economist Tom Davidoff with the Sauder School of Business.

“I found Vancouver interesting for two reasons. First, it was only four percent, which is lower than the Metro average. And the most interesting thing was, whereas non-citizens and non-local buyers buy more expensive properties, it seemed to be while the numbers are small so maybe you can’t tell, it seemed like the number of buyers and the dollar value of buyers who weren’t citizens or permanent residents was roughly equal in Vancouver.

“Maybe it’s the small sample, I just found that somewhat surprising. Because if you listen to realtors on the West Side, they’ll tell you 80 percent of the buyers of the real luxury properties are Chinese. So, how is it 80 percent of the buyers are Chinese for the luxury properties, only four percent city wide — you’d think that would mean they would bring up the average and they’d be responsible for more than four percent of value at four percent of buyers. But that doesn’t seem to be true in the data, and that was surprising to me.”

Looking at the City of Vancouver, the province says foreign nationals bought 4.1 per cent of the homes that were sold in that 19-day period.

In response to questions about the quality of this data, Finance Minister Mike de Jong says, “We have made a prerequisite to purchasing real estate in British Columbia the disclosure of your citizenship, if you are not a Canadian or permanent resident in this country. I’m not sure how much more direct you can be.”

In total, over 10,000 homes were sold, worth more than $7.6 billion combined.

The province gathered this information from the property transfer tax form, which was recently modified to require foreign nationals to list their country of residence.

NDP calls province’s data ‘garbage’

NDP Housing Critic David Eby says he’s “appalled” that the province is using this data, arguing it has a lot more information it can draw from to look at who is buying property in BC.

“It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so insulting to people who are seriously concerned about this issue and want real information about what’s happening in the market,” he tells us.

Eby believes the five per cent figure for Metro Vancouver is unrealistic.

“The City of Vancouver did their electricity study that found that 12.5 per cent of the condo stock in Vancouver is vacant year-round. The 2011 census status found that 10 per cent of people in wealthy neighbourhoods were declaring less income tax than they actually had to spend to maintain their housing. So, we know those numbers are up in the double figures.”

“Why this provincial government refuses to use the data they have for real numbers that we can all rely on is beyond me. They really need to settle this debate. It’s a divisive debate. It’s a problematic debate. All they’re doing is kicking the ball down the road and pretending there’s not an issue when clearly, there’s a very serious issue in our communities,” adds Eby.

He says the province needs to start taking things more seriously.

“Even on their garbage data, this is a serious issue. But what they really need to do is stop with these press release kind of figures and pull out the data from the income tax system and say, ‘Okay, you only declared $20,000 on your income tax this year, but you bought a $3-million house. Can you explain to us how that can possibly be?’ I think that’s where you’re going to find the real information about what’s happening in our market.”

LISTEN: NDP Housing Critic David Eby speaks live on NEWS 1130