Addressing the Roots of Skyrocketing Home Prices

I’ve heard from many of my constituents about how housing affordability is their biggest concern.  I suspect this is the case across most of the province.

People have seen prices soar and an increasing number of empty homes observed during their daily commutes. Without government action, the housing market will continue to work against, rather than work for people.

We live in one of the most desirable regions in the country, but what good is a thriving, beautiful province if British Columbians cannot afford to live in their own province and near where they work? Between sky-high housing prices and some of the lowest vacancy rates in North America, British Columbians are being squeezed out of their communities.

The fact is, we’re living in a housing crisis and this situation didn’t develop overnight. Rather, it has been created by a perfect storm of rampant speculation and past-government neglect.

Over the last decade, we have seen many non-resident investors, speculating over B.C.’s housing market. These investors have used our housing stock as an investment vehicle, contributing to skyrocketing prices of homes across our province’s urban regions.

While the amount of affordable rental units have diminished in recent years, home prices have also skyrocketed. It’s no surprise that this extraordinary increase coincides with the tenure of the former B.C. Liberal government who refused to take any real action to tackle the crisis.

New Democrats recognized the dangers of offshore speculation in 2014 and began ringing the alarm bells. However despite our repeated calls for the then BC Liberal government to take action, they chose to do nothing. Instead they denied that families across the province were caught in a housing crisis. They even suggested home prices in the Lower Mainland weren’t that bad, and that everyone should just move to Fort St. John.

Time and time again they chose to reward speculators and big developers–many of whom are big B.C. Liberal donors–rather than actually tackle the crisis.

Two years later, the BC Liberals couldn’t deny it any longer, but in that time, the benchmark price of a home had increased by over $600,000.

While the BC Liberals approach to housing has and continues to be the prioritization of profit for their wealthy developer friends and standing up for the wealthiest of multi-million dollar homeowners, our New Democrat government is taking a different approach. This fall, the Province will introduce a new speculation tax, targeting foreign and domestic speculators who don’t pay taxes here, especially those who leave their units sitting vacant.

Our government is also increasing the foreign buyer’s tax rate from 15% to 20%. We’re doing this so that property owners who enjoy our services are mandated to pay their fair share of taxes. Foreign buyers should contribute to our society in return for the high quality of life they enjoy when they move to our province, just like everyone else.

Calls for greater transparency in our real estate sector have come in repeatedly to my local office. British Columbia should not be a location to anonymously hide and invest wealth which is why our New Democrat government is moving forward to end hidden ownership of real estate to help fight tax evasion, tax fraud and money laundering. We’re also making sure those who flip pre-sale condos and inflate prices are paying their fair share of taxes.

The previous government failed to take action and instead they allowed money-launderers to thrive in our casinos and racetracks–activity which may have easily played a role in making housing prices unaffordable.

Our New Democrat government is committed to helping return the real estate market to one that serves local residents, rather than speculators. For years the housing crisis was allowed to escalate. It hurt working families, students, renters and seniors. We’re taking steps to stop the spread of dirty money and are tackling the housing crisis head on.

Through measures to crack down on those who distort our market, my colleagues and I will continue working to ease demand and help British Columbians receive access to the housing supply they so desperately need. We promised British Columbians we would take bold action on housing and that’s exactly what we’re doing.