"It is convenient but both divisive and wrong to blame foreign buyers for Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis, the head of Canada’s housing authority said Wednesday."
PETER O'NEIL (VANCOUVER SUN) - Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. President Evan Siddall, citing a year of research by the federal Crown corporation, pointed instead to several factors and actors responsible — including critics of federal housing policy like Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
“While it would be convenient to hang all of the blame for high prices on others — offshore buyers — it’s just not that simple,” Siddall told members of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.
“Sure, it makes for a tempting narrative: them, not us.”
Foreign investment, according to Siddall, is “clearly” a factor — but not the only one. He cited new CMHC data on the condominium market showing that 2.2 per cent of condos in Metro Vancouver are currently owned by offshore buyers — roughly in line with the 2.3 per cent total in 2014, and down sharply from the 3.5 per cent in 2015.
The survey also showed that offshore ownership of newer condos built since 2010 was higher — at five per cent.
“The evidence tells us that the origin of investor activity in Canadian residential real estate is predominantly domestic,” Siddall said.
Other key factors include low interest rates, population and economic growth that is spurred by the heavy concentration of Canadian immigrants wanting to live in Vancouver, Canada’s tax regime, and “supply constraints” that are particularly apparent in Vancouver, according to Siddall.
Robertson, who has called for action against both foreign and domestic speculators, recently sent a letter to the federal government asking Ottawa to take action to ease the pressure.
JENNI SHEPHERD (DAILY HIVE) - BC Premier Christy Clark has announced the province is investing $516 million in 68 affordable housing projects.
In a release issued Tuesday, Clark said the projects would build 2,897 new housing units, 1299 of which will be in Metro Vancouver:
With an election only a few months away, Clark said her government was working hard to build “Canada’s leading economy” to enable projects like this.
“It gives us the ability to make significant investments, put British Columbians first, and take immediate action to increase the rental supply in communities throughout BC,” she said.
In Vancouver, the majority of the projects appear to be in the Downtown Eastside, with two others near West Georgia and Hornby, and one more at Scotia and 5th.
Mayor welcomes investment
In an email statement to Daily Hive on Tuesday afternoon, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he welcomed the province’s investment in the city.
“The housing market is particularly tough for residents on low and middle incomes with housing prices disconnected from working wages in Metro Vancouver,” said Robertson.
“This investment will help deepen rental affordability for residents struggling to find a safe and affordable place to live.”
Robertson said he would be building on his strong partnership with BC Housing to make sure the projects are finished as soon as possible.
JENNI SHEPHERD (DAILY HIVE) - The City of Vancouver has announced the details of its proposed Empty Homes Tax aimed at boosting rental rates in our city’s incredibly hot market.
All non-principal residences left unoccupied for at least six months of the year will be subject to a 1% tax on the assessed value of the property, as of 2017.
In a release on Wednesday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city is in a housing crisis and it’s time to take action.
“The City won’t sit on the sidelines while over 20,000 empty and under-occupied properties hold back homes for renters struggling to find an affordable and secure place to live,” said Robertson.
“In a rental housing crisis, it’s unacceptable for so much housing to be treated as a commodity when people are desperate for an affordable, secure place to live. Housing is for homes first, and as investments second.”
The new tax is aimed at tackling affordability issues and increasing rental supply in Vancouver, where it is becoming impossible to even find a place to rent, let alone buy.
According to the City, more than 22,000 homes in Vancouver were found to be unoccupied or occupied by temporary residents on Census Day in May 2011.
Meanwhile, this year the City found 10,800 homes were not occupied, and concluded that put a strain on a housing market that’s already stretched to capacity.
Empty homes exemptions
The new Empty Homes Tax will also apply to vacant residential land, although there will be some exemptions on which land and homes are subject to the tax.
Properties that are rented long-term with a tenancy agreement, or for at least 30 days in a row for at least six months in aggregate over the course of a year, would be exempt.
Other exemptions include cases where:
Daily $10,000 fines
The whole system will be self-reporting, with the City carrying out random audits to ensure compliance. And if you are caught not paying the tax, there will be penalties to pay.
Owners who fail to report before the deadline will have to pay the tax, while owners who pay late will be subject to an extra 5% tax on their property’s assessed value, with interest.
Meanwhile, anyone found to have made a false declaration to hide the fact their property is empty will face fines of up to $10,000 per day of the infraction.
The City’s plans come after notifying 220,000 homeowners, holding open houses attended by 500 residents, and receiving more than 10,000 responses to an online survey.
City staff will put the proposal to Council on Tuesday, and if approved, the Empty Homes Tax will come into force on January 1, 2017.
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