Charlottetown MP pushing for changes to foreign home buying ban

Nguyen Tuan, who moved to P.E.I. from Vietnam in October, said he's still keeping an eye on real estate listings, with the hope the federal government will change its new foreign home buying law.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Nguyen Tuan, who moved to P.E.I. from Vietnam in October, said he's still keeping an eye on real estate listings, with the hope the federal government will change its new foreign home buying law. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Charlottetown's Liberal Member of Parliament says he plans to push his government to "tweak" parts of its foreign home buyers' ban.

Sean Casey's comment follows complaints this week from some new immigrants to P.E.I., who told CBC they moved there intending to buy a house and settle on the Island, and that the new rules should not apply to them.

Casey said Thursday he agrees, and that the ban should focus on "foreign ownership of residential properties for an investment purpose."

"No program is perfect. There are bound to be unintended consequences," said Casey.

"I feel very badly for people in that situation. I think that the policy had the right intentions. But there will always be cases where the policy has impacts on someone that isn't fair."

Under the new federal rules brought in Jan. 1 — aimed at cooling Canada's housing market — most people who aren't Canadian citizens or permanent residents are banned from buying or building houses for the next two years.

There are some exemptions to the ban, including immigrants with work permits, who have filed income tax returns in Canada three of the last four years.

'We were shocked'

But the ban still applies to recent immigrants like Nguyen Tuan, who moved from Vietnam to P.E.I. with his wife and two children in October.

Tuan has a work permit through P.E.I.'s Provincial Nominee Program, and has been searching for a house to buy in the Charlottetown area.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

"We just heard about the ban one week before the new law came in. Our Vietnamese community group updated us. We were shocked," said Tuan.

"A lot of us had been planning to buy. You come here, you buy a house in order to have a stable life."

Tuan and his family are renting a two-bedroom house for $2,000 month. He said while that is not ideal, it is all they could find in Charlottetown's tight rental market.

"We have to wait, and hope government changes the law to support the newcomers with work permits," he said. "We came here to [start a business], and for my children to grow up here and be Canadian as well."

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Casey said he's already suggested to Ahmed Hussen, the federal housing minister, that immigrants should be allowed to build their own houses.

"I also think that the restrictions around people with work permits having to have filed income tax returns for three of the last four years is one that's causing a problem here, that the federal minister needs to know about," he said.

"This is something having an impact on P.E.I. It'll be certainly be something I'll be raising with the prime minister, cabinet ministers and my colleagues." He noted the Liberal caucus meets later this month.

CBC requested an interview with Hussen this week. A spokesperson in his office instead issued a statement, reiterating the intent of the new federal rules.

"The purpose of this temporary prohibition is to ensure housing is used to house Canadians, instead of being used as speculative investments by foreign investors," the statement said.