B.C. budget: province to begin collecting data on foreign purchasers of real estate

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      The provincial government has said it will finally begin collecting data related to the foreign ownership of B.C. real estate.

      Starting this summer, it will require buyers to declare their citizenship when taking ownership of a property in B.C.

      “Proposed changes to the Property Transfer Tax Act will authorize government to collect new information from owners when they register their property,” reads a February 16 media release. “The government will resume collecting data that specifically identifies foreign purchasers. Beginning this summer, individuals who purchase property will need to disclose if they are citizens or permanent residents of Canada, and, if they are not, their citizenship and country of residence.”

      The measures do not apply restrictions on property purchases by non-Canadian citizens or non-residents; rather, they are a means of collecting information.

      The announcement was included in the province’s unveiling of its budget for 2016. It follows calls for the government to gather more data about Metro Vancouver’s real-estate market that have steadily grown louder for more than a year now.

      B.C. Finance Minister Mike De Jong explained the government’s rational for the measure in a speech introducing the budget.

      “One of the ways we can better understand what’s actually driving property prices in the province, is to collect additional data on purchasers,” he said in the Victoria legislature.

      “The government stopped collecting data that specifically identified foreign purchasers in 1998. We believe there is a legitimate need to resume that process again.

      “Therefore, beginning in the summer, individuals who purchase property will need to disclose if they are citizens or permanent residents of Canada, and, if they are not, their citizenship and country of residence.

      “Let me be clear however: Our laws allow non-residents to own property and our government continues to welcome, indeed encourages, those who choose to come to our province to invest, create new jobs, and hopefully make their lives here and contribute to the social and economic fabric of our communities.

      “We are proud of the diversity in our communities. That diversity makes us stronger.

      “As a government, we are committed to working on solutions to the affordability of housing, but we also have to be cautious to ensure we create a plan that will truly create positive change.”

      The budget includes several other measures related to housing affordability.

      It raises the ceiling for a property-tax exemption for first-time home buyers to apply to properties worth up to $750,000.

      It also raises taxes on sales of properties valued at more than $2 million.

      “Is there anything more reflective of who we are as Canadians than the dream of owning a home?” De Jong asked.

      “For many B.C. families, that reality has become harder to achieve in recent years as home prices have continued to rise.”

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