Veteran money manager criticizes federal government for housing data gap

by Ephraim Vecina on 24 Mar 2017

Long-time Bay Street money manager John Stephenson slammed the federal government for the shortage of detailed real estate sales data, noting that the lack of accurate figures is making it more difficult for consumers and market players alike to react effectively to Canada’s red-hot price growth rates.

“It’s just a disgrace how bad our data is. How can you make informed policy if you don’t have better data? We don’t know who the buyers are, we don’t know where they come from, we don’t know if they live here,” the president and CEO of Stephenson & Company said in an interview with BNN.

“There’s very little data, there’s very little transparency,” he added. “I think there’s a whole series of issues that are complicated [by a lack of data.] I think we need a better handle on ‘who are the buyers?’ and be a little more clear on that.”

The statements echoed recent comments from B.C. NDP housing critic David Eby, who noted that the federal and provincial governments need to more diligently collect data on the sales of all types of properties.

“As far as we know the province isn’t collecting any data about [commercial] sales. We're one of the few provinces that doesn't collect this type of information and we really need to know what is driving these prices,” Eby stated. “There are a lot of small businesses in his constituency facing huge property tax hikes because the perceived value of their property is higher. It's driving a lot of small businesses out of business.”

Earlier this year, Liberal political strategist and media commentator Jim Warren similarly warned that Toronto suffers from an absence lack of hard data regarding home sale transactions involving foreign nationals, even though plenty of analysts have already weighed in on the issue.

“Right now, we’re hearing conflicting views from experts on the issue and no one is sure of what is really going on,” Warren wrote in February.

“Without reliable facts and figures, it’s impossible to set policy, protect the dream of home ownership for Canadians and avoid a potential real estate bubble and subsequent market crash in Toronto that could impact the entire Canadian economy,” he added. “Finding out what those facts are, before deciding what to do, is the responsibility of our governments.”


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