WHISTLER (NEWS 1130) – More people living outside the country continue to snap up property in Whistler and Sun Peaks Mountain, but don’t expect the resort communities to get a speculation tax, according to a local real estate economist.
Sun Peaks topped the list with non-residents owning 16.5 per cent of homes, according to new data from Statistics Canada. Whistler was a close second at 15.5 per cent, still more than double Vancouver’s 7.8 per cent.
A non-resident is considered anyone who doesn’t have a primary address in Canada, but could still be a citizen.
“The places you would expect to have the highest share of non-residents would be tourism destinations, particularly tourism that has any amount of international appeal,” Tsur Somerville with the Sauder School of Business said.
“If you think about Americans who fly in and go skiing in Whistler, you’d expect some of them to own property there.”
Somerville says because the economies of both cities rely heavily on tourism, it’s unlikely the government would impose a speculation tax, as it is proposing for most of Metro Vancouver and parts of the interior.
“I would be shocked if the government was imposing foreign buyers and speculation taxes on an area like Whistler that is so overwhelmingly just a tourism destination,” Somerville said. “The economy is tourism so why would you impose a tax that essentially undermines the local economy?”
The speculation tax, first announced in February’s budget would add an annual fee to secondary homes unless the property is leased or rented for half the year or valued at less than $400,000.
The province has faces backlash from several communities including Kelowna and West Kelowna whose mayors have said it will give surrounding communities an unfair economic advantage and force them to cancel several housing development projects.
“I think that’s the complication when you look at Kelowna and West Kelowna and the application of the speculation tax there, that those are areas where tourism by non-locals is an important part of the local economy, so taxing that is problematic,” Somerville said. “Vancouver tourism is really important, but it’s not a larger share of the Lower Mainland economy as it is of the Whistler economy.”
After clawing the tax back slightly, the province says it will still apply to Greater Victoria, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Nanaimo, and most of Metro Vancouver, excluding Kent, Hope, Harrison Hot Springs, Bowen Island and, of course, Whistler.
Percentage of non-resident ownership in British Columbia communities outside metropolitan areas:
- Sun Peaks Mountain: 16.5 per cent
- Whistler: 15.5 per cent
- Kootenay Boundary E / West Boundary: 8.6 per cent
- North Okanagan C: 7.8 per cent
- Southern Gulf Island: 6.9 per cent
- Fernie: 6.6 per cent
- Saltspring Island: 6.3 per cent
- Nanaimo: B 5.9 per cent
- Sunshine Coast A: 5.4 per cent
- Revelstoke 5.2: per cent
Percentage of non-resident ownership in British Columbia communities in metropolitan areas:
- Vancouver: 4.6 per cent
- Victoria: 2.7 per cent
- Kelowna: 2.5 per cent
- Abbotsford-Mission: 1.4 per cent