Citizenship should be a requirement for home ownership

Foreign buyers tax and levy on vacant homes has not ended exorbitant home prices

The suggested housing crisis solution (Feb. 24 Our View, Saanich News) “Vacant home tax will help to address issue” should be considered only as a first step on the road to resolving what has become a multi-jurisdictional housing concern.

The B.C. government’s amendment of the Vancouver Charter that enabled taxation of vacant city homes and Vancouver’s imposition of a foreign buyers 15 per cent tax on a home’s selling price, has not ended exorbitant Vancouver home prices. And just as such palliative or symptomatic treatment fell short of a sorely needed curative solution in Vancouver, a home buyers tax imposed on foreigners is unlikely to be effective in Saanich or Victoria.

And why is that? Because, to a significant but unmeasured degree, a portion of our residential carriage trade is now driven by offshore buyers, with most of it coming from China. That there are as well attendant higher costs on mid-market housing is not surprising. As internationally recognized desirable residential cities in a socially liberal country, the above-noted relatively moderate foreign buyers premium pricing penalties will not drive the needed long-term results. Is there a broad-based practical solution?

Yes. Resolution of the Vancouver, Victoria and Saanich home pricing conundrum is possible. Over a to-be-determined multi-year phased implementation schedule, we must no longer enable or recognize dual or multiple-country citizenship. There must be a strictly enforced rule that home ownership or long-term home rental be limited to only sole-country Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.

Both such citizenship and occupancy restrictions are required. Without the abolition of multi-country citizenship, many of the growing number of foreign-based Canadians will continue to establish their increasingly expensive and often unoccupied bolt-hole residences here in Canada.

It must be granted that with such a comprehensive approach there are significant difficulties to resolve. With federal citizenship pre-eminence and provincial property rights authority, the required federal-provincial solution will require major and too seldom seen inter-jurisdictional co-operation.

To make meaningful progress in what could prove to be a multi-year process, an initial one-off agreement between the federal and B.C. governments may best serve as a first step on our moving to what must remain a national goal. That’s to end foreign money driving up home prices anywhere in Canada as has happened to Vancouver, Victoria and Saanich prices in British Columbia and to a lessor extent Toronto prices in Ontario.

To continue with Canadian/multiple country citizenship, combined with a lack of strict residential occupancy rules, we risk even greater housing crises in B.C. and across Canada.

Ron Johnson