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.