Harper suggested that may take the form of taxes or preventing foreigners from buying any new housing stock and forcing temporary residents to sell their homes when they leave the country, similar to policies in place in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Using the backdrop of North Vancouver, a community once popular for middle-income home hunters but increasingly becoming unaffordable to them, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged during a whistle-stop campaign event Wednesday to spend $500,000 next year to determine how much foreign home ownership is affecting home affordability.
Harper’s foray into the debate over foreign home ownership is something of a reversal of past Conservative positions on data collection.
“The Home Buyer’s Plan has helped so many Canadian families realize their dream of home ownership”, said CREA president Pauline Aunger.
Foreign investors have been blamed for driving up the cost of real estate in Toronto and Vancouver. They have said in the past they had no plans to change foreign ownership rules on property in Canada.
Harper’s focus on the foreignness of real estate speculators may also raise eyebrows when the money believed to be inflating the Vancouver housing market could be coming from anywhere, including the rest of Canada.
University of B.C. geography professor and real estate expert David Ley said he welcomes the issue entering the national conversation. However in 2014 Vancouver real estate consultant Ozzie Jurock predicted that after cancelling a popular immigrant investor scheme mostly used by Chinese investors, the Conservative government would go even further. “The second will be some sort of tax on foreign real estate investment, or outright ban or restrictions on foreign investment like in Australia”.
With this week’s return of Mike Duffy promising another barrage of banner headlines and awkward campaign-trail questions, Harper struck a defiant tone as he defended putting Canada front and centre in the global fight against militants in Iraq and Syria.
“I think it’s an important development. We had been looking for leadership from the province but it has not been forthcoming”, he said. It has been suggested, including by the candidate himself, that NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe – a political rookie and relative unknown who only declared his intent to run four months before election day – might have had a better shot of unseating Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and his entrenched Vision political machine – which, frankly, is constantly campaigning – if he’d had more time to become known. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians find themselves in that situation: According to CRA, of the 1,768,640 individuals who had a Home Buyers’ Plan balance owing at the start of 2013, 885,700 did not pay the full required annual repayment that year.