Petition urges restrictions on foreign investors buying Vancouver homes
Published Friday, May 8, 2015 11:00AM EDT
Amid soaring real estate prices, a new petition is calling on British Columbia lawmakers to restrict foreign investment in Vancouver’s housing market.
The petition demands B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and other city councillors and mayors introduce legislation to restrict foreign buyers by the end of the year.
"It's time to stand up and protect our community – Vancouver is not for sale," the petition says. "The housing needs of Greater Vancouver residents are more important than the profit margins of foreign speculators."
Since it was launched on April 3 the petition has collected more than 1,600 signatures.
It's a common complaint among prospective home buyers who feel that they are being priced out of the market by wealthy foreign investors.
Vancouver House, a high-profile condominium tower, is nearly sold out and a full 35 per cent of the units were purchased by foreign buyers. Starting prices for units were listed at $549,800.
Anson Realty said it's seen similar figures among its client base.
"Right now I think we're looking at about 70-30, 30 to foreign and 70 to locals," realtor Grace Kwok told CTV Vancouver.
Some experts are suggesting ways the government can intervene to help keep home prices within the reach of locals.
UBC professor of geography, Dr. David Ley, has been studying how governments have approached the issue in Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and London.
He said one step some cities have taken is to levy stiff taxes on high-end properties, which can help push down prices.
"If you can cool off the high-end house prices, the top end of the market, that will have ripple effects throughout," he said.
In Australia, the government is charging stiff fees to foreign investors, and threatening fines and punishments for those who break the rules.
Last March, the Australian government forced the sale of a Sydney mansion it alleges was illegally bought by Chinese investors.
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce has also weighed in on the issue, calling on the government to increase the property transfer tax on foreign buyers.
But the province's deputy premier, Rich Coleman, said the government has no plans to interfere with the market.
"Our economy has been built on immigration and people moving here and feeling comfortable they can invest in our country. It's not come up as an issue for us," he said.
A March report found that the average price of a detached home in Vancouver and Toronto rose past the $1 million mark.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Mi-Jung Lee and files from CTV Vancouver's Andrew Weichel