Editorial

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Time for provincial and municipal politicians to bite the bullet and stop foreign buyers from ousting local residents from the housing markets

Umendra Singh

Now that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has admitted that it is “foreign money”, mainly from China, which has created a housing crises in  Vancouver, (see story on Page 1 and Page 10), it is time for provincial and municipal politicians, such as Premier Christy Clark, Provincial Finance Minister, Mike de Jong,Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner to do the same and come up with a strategy to keep housing affordable for local residents.
So far these  Provincial and Municipal politicians have been playing the public for the fool, claiming there was no proof that foreign money was driving house prices beyond astronomical.
All these local politicians have refused to do anything because they have been raking in billions of dollars in fees and charges (property transfer tax for the province at the rate of 1 percent for price of each property sold and in terms of higher property taxes and building and services fees for municipal councils like Vancouver and Surrey). They don’t want to give up this bonanza. How big is this pot of gold for the BC Liberal government ?
With prices soaring, the government has turned property transfer tax into a cash cow – the higher the price of a property, the higher the transfer tax so why would Premier Clark and her side kick Mike de Jong want house prices to come down? By some estimates, BC Liberal government collected $1.49 billion in property transfer tax in the last fiscal year, a 40-per-cent increase in one year.
The transfer-tax take was $562 million more than the government budgeted at the start of the year, allowing the Liberals to balance the books and providing  them with a good talking point during next year’s election. The collection from property transfer tax is more than the government received  from lotteries and casinos, the carbon tax, tobacco and liquor. And it is more than royalties from forestry, mining and natural gas combined. So no wonder Premier Clark would much rather see local residents go homeless rather than shut the door on foreign buyers.
> Another reason for her to be reluctant to help local residents access affordable housing is because most people selling houses in the current market at huge profits are Liberal supporters. She does not want to offend them with an election coming.
In Clark’s vision of BC,  only the very wealthy, who can afford to have several homes and sell second and third properties at huge profits, and those who are homeless on the streets or rely on government subsidized or paid housing or tent cities can afford to have a roof over their heads.
> Everyone in between is in for a very hard and trying time. Either they sell their homes and become homeless because they can’t afford another house in this market or they are driven out of their homes by high property taxes, utility and service fees by unforgiving and predatory city councils such as Vancouver and Surrey

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