“Why would the Vancouver Mayor, the Premier of BC and the Chinese Consulate all be weighing in on the impact we are seeing from offshore buying if it were only five per cent as the B.C. Real Estate Association is suggesting?” said Calvin Lindberg, a real estate agent with Angell Hasman & Associates. “I suggest we start collecting the data.”
“At our company specifically, we are suggesting that close to 40 per cent of all sales are from offshore buyers,” he added. “Obviously these numbers will have a huge impact on local markets and that is exactly what we are seeing.”
The China envoy, Consul-General Liu Fei, said that blaming the buyer, not government oversight, is misguided, adding that the situation experience in Vancouver would be take place in China.
Liu suggested that quotas should be introduced to increase the number of affordable housing units within new buildings, and called for greater oversight from real estate developers from the city. She also suggested a tax or fee for offshore buyers who want to buy luxury properties.
“If there are not enough [affordable] houses, you can set up rules saying, ‘Okay, we have to save 30 or 40 per cent of [the units] for those families who need housing,’” she was quoted as saying. “And we can pu a higher price on luxury houses for the overseas investors … so everybody could enjoy [Vancouver].”
Her remarks reflect what has become a frustrating picture for many in the Vancouver area as they try to sort through the noise surrounding high prices for homes in Canada’s hottest market. It also invigorates debate about the need for data and government intervention when it comes to the impact of foreign buyers.
But what’s more pertinent, said Darcy McLeod, spokesperson for the B.C. Real Estate Association, is what that intervention entails, what necessarily constitutes a foreign buyer and what the impact of another tax would be.
“It’s really a fine line because it’s a free market system and you cannot necessarily use the measures they may use in China over here in a free market,” he said. “Also, Canada has a high rate of immigrants and if they buy a house here, are they necessarily a ‘foreign buyer’? What would a foreign tax look like?”
“We’ve had a tax called the Property Transfer Tax in B.C. since 1987, which has greatly contributed to elevated house prices in my opinion,” he said. “There’s definitely a need for more information but it takes time.”
Comments from the Chinese government’s envoy citing a lack of regulation as key reasons for Vancouver’s sky-high real estate prices have agents nodding in agreement as foreign buyers continue to dominate conversation of unaffordability in B.C.