NDP-sponsored petition opposes foreign ownership

An open petition asking the Government of Canada to take actions to potentially curb foreign ownership of property has been tabled by a Burnaby resident concerned about runaway real estate prices in Metro Vancouver

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has sponsored Raymond Wong’s petition calling on the federal government to collect reliable data on offshore investment in Canada’s real estate market.

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As part of a five-point demand, Wong is also asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate suspicious transactions flagged by the Financial Transactions and Report Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) that are related to real estate, demand that non-residents register with the government in order to buy a home, and consider restricting such ownership arrangements.

Wong also wants the Canadian government to follow in the footsteps of countries such as Australia, USA, Hong Kong, England, Singapore and New Zealand, which have — to differing levels — placed restrictions on foreign home ownership.

Wong states that as prices continue to soar, families are unable to afford to live in Metro Vancouver, thus many schools in the area are in danger of being shut down.

“Rental units have also become unaffordable for families even with a household median income in Greater Vancouver of $70,000,” noted Wong.

The petition runs until August 6 and can be found online as Petition e-281 at Petitions.parl.gc.ca.

The month-old petition has garnered about 1,500 signatures, well below many other sponsored petitions.

It comes as local academic experts on the subject have gained more attention in the media. This week, a non-peer reviewed study from assistant professor Josh Gordon at Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy, outlined how the “dominant explanation” for the affordable housing crisis in Metro  Vancouver “is a large and continuous flow of foreign money into the region, especially from China, which has reached unprecedented levels in the past year. This factor accounts for most of the crisis, on its own.”

Gordon acknowledged the limitations of concrete home ownership data, although he places blame for this gap on “intentionally inept government oversight.”

Gordon notes the debate about foreign money needn’t be one clouded by calls of racism, as has been the case from some members of the real estate industry.

He contends that low interest rates, geographical constraints and a desire to live here are mere “distractions” to the root cause of runaway housing prices: foreign money.

He puts in doubt claims by the provincial government that the B.C. economy is strong. Instead, the economy is highly dependent on industry-related activity and property transfer taxes from a housing market bubble, which comes at the expense of non-homeowners.  

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