In a recent campaign pledge (watch here), Stephen Harper announced that a Conservative government would spend $500,000 to collect data on foreign ownership, calling it something “we can and should do something about”. This is a hot button topic as of late and this article aims to explain the issue at hand.
With prices rising at 10% a year or more for single-detached homes in Vancouver, many young families are being priced out of the market – forced to move elsewhere or downgrade their expectations. This has caused many to speculate that foreign investment is a driving force and there has been a growing clamor for legislative steps to be taken. Some have called for -taxes on vacant homes](http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/green-party-back-vacant-home-tax-proposal-in-vancouver/article20685697/), higher property taxes for foreign owners, or taxes on the purchase of homes by foreigners.
As it stands though, most of the arguments are still based on anecdotal evidence.
There have been some attempts at measuring the issue. In 2013, Andy Yan released a study aimed at measuring the number of homes that sit vacant within Vancouver:
CMHC has also released a study aimed at measuring foreign ownership in Canada:
What other levels of government are saying/doing about the issue:
Well, I suppose that might depend on the results of the election. However, being as most economists agree that the collection of data is a crucial component for any policy-related decisions and that this is a hot-button topic, we expect most other politicians to get on-board.
We have argued in the past that foreign investors are likely not the driving force behind price growth in Vancouver and we find Harper’s sudden push for better data questionable, given that his government took out the mandatory long-form census. That being said, we think this is a wonderful idea and hope that it is implemented regardless of the election results.