What does the 15% increase in housing tax for foreigners in Canada mean for home buyers and the economy?

Last year, foreigners looking to purchase a home in Vancouver were faced with an additional tax. This was a major step taken by the Canadian authorities, in order to cool off a heated housing market. As of last year, Vancouver had a thirteen percent of foreign investor rate, with many apartments that were owned by foreigners remaining as vacant, since the owners did not wish to rent them out. With the new measure in place, Canada imposed a 15 percent tax on foreign investment, thus promoting a fairer local market.


The taxing measure is intended to help cool the city’s flaming property market and the tax is to be used towards housing initiatives for renters, low-income residents and first-time buyers. The tax is also to be used to help fund provincial housing affordability measures.


A spokesperson for the British Columbia Ministry of Finance said, “The tax is helping manage excessive demand in the region’s residential real estate to allow the housing market to respond by building new homes to meet local needs.”


With this measure in effect, the home sales in Vancouver has dropped, it was reported that the sales dropped by more than 40 percent from the record volume of the previous year. The prices for detached houses being sold in Vancouver have dropped by 5 percent to an average of up to $2.67 million. While, it is still too early to say how much of the reduced level of foreign purchases is due to the tax, Bank of Nova Scotia senior economist Adrienne Warren said that it “likely contributed to the cooling in prices.” It is also noted that the housing prices in Vancouver fell up to 5.3 percent in November. This has been reported as the largest monthly decline since 2012. Joshua Gordon, an assistant professor in the school of public policy at Simon Fraser University, said “When you have a pretty tight market, just adding a few extra buyers can really put a lot of pressure on the system.”


Looking at the tax as one of a number of options to control aggressive growth in home prices, after rejecting such a measure last year, Ontario is now seen considering to impose taxes on foreign home buyers, as Finance Minister Charles Sousa said, “A year ago I was thinking, ‘Let market forces prevail, but now I’m concerned about … the ability of people to enter the marketplace. [There are] bidding wars everywhere you go, it appears, and I’m sensitive to that.”


The ultimate goal to be achieved from this step is to affect the demand for housing in Canada and making sure that it is a little tougher for foreign buyers to find their way into the market.


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