B.C. Green leader questions govt’s release of real estate figures

Province's study uses a 19-day snapshot that's virtually worthless, Weaver says

The B.C. government’s release of real estate data is another example of more fumbling on a major issue, says Andrew Weaver, head of the B.C. Green Party.

“The BC Government has already allowed the housing market to become a crisis and now they’re sitting on a powder keg holding press conferences based on 19 days worth of data,” the Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA said in a media release. “They have dropped the ball on this file, completely dropped the ball.”

The provincial government released real estate transaction data on July 7 resulting from new measures to track the extent of foreign real estate transactions.

The findings, based on data collected between June 10 and June 29, indicated that of the 10,148 residential transactions totalling more than $7.6 billion, only 337 transactions, or 3.3 per cent involved foreign nationals. That represents $390 million, or 5.1 per cent of total transactions.

In Metro Vancouver there were 5,118 transactions worth close to $5.4 billion, with a total of 260 involving foreign nationals worth $351 million.

Weaver, a resident of Gordon Head, called the 19 days of data the government compiled “completely meaningless” and said it would be akin to arguing that since the Canucks didn’t play any games between June 10 and 19, Vancouver doesn’t have a hockey team.

“It’s just laughable,” said Weaver, who has been lobbying for detailed data on foreign ownership of real estate in B.C. for three years.

The government has failed to deliver data on the occurrence and impact of beneficial ownership changes in bare trust owned properties, despite promises made in the 2016 budget, Weaver added. A bare trust is a legal entity that allows the separation of beneficial and legal ownership.

“The minister said our province has seen higher rates of house flipping in the past, but that data is based on registered sales only. There are a lot of houses out there that are flipping through changes in beneficial ownership, and those people are not paying property transfer tax,” Weaver noted.

– This story has been updated to correct the statistic that 10,148 residential transactions totalled more than $7.6 billion between June 10 and 29.

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