B.C. to measure foreign property buying

Premier pledges steps to gauge offshore money impact, address real estate affordability concerns

Premier Christy Clark now says action will be taken to at least gauge the impact of foreign real estate buyers on the Lower Mainland property market.

The province has been criticized for lacking hard data on the influence of offshore money on home prices and has until now relied on estimates from realtor groups that contend the problem is minimal.

“I’m determined to try to get as much of that information as we can,” Clark told reporters Monday. “Affordability – especially in the City of Vancouver, less so in the suburbs, but certainly there as well – is a real issue and we have to find ways to address it.”

She said the forthcoming provincial budget later this month will include measures that will see BC Housing work with the federal government to quantify foreign ownership.

“You will see more initiatives that will help us understand exactly the role that non-citizens are playing in our property market.”

Clark cautioned against “villainizing” non-residents for any role they have in driving up prices.

The premier did not spell out exactly what action may be taken, if any at this point.

She has said before the province doesn’t want to do anything that would reduce the equity existing owners now have in their homes by forcing prices lower.

Finance Minster Mike de Jong has previously indicated a third tier might be added to B.C.’s property transfer tax, effectively charging the most expensive homes more when they change hands.

Money from such a move, he suggested, could be plowed back into some sort of housing affordability program to assist the less affluent.

The average sale price of Greater Vancouver detached houses hit $1.65 million in December.

One home now on the market is a 1930 old timer that’s predicted to fetch more than its $2.4 million asking price and then be knocked down.

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