Nova Scotia realtors oppose new federal law on non-resident homebuying

The intent of the new law is to prevent foreign investors from buying Canadian homes and contributing to higher prices.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
The intent of the new law is to prevent foreign investors from buying Canadian homes and contributing to higher prices. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia realtors say a new federal law that bans non-Canadian citizens from buying a home will only slow down an already-slow housing market in this province.

The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act came into effect on Jan. 1. It prevents non-Canadians from buying a home in the country for the next two years and expires in 2025.

The intent of the law is to close the door on foreign investors who buy Canadian real estate, sometimes leaving homes vacant or underused, while driving prices up.

But it's a move that sales representative Angela Cowan of Exit Real Estate Professionals in Halifax says will only make a cold Nova Scotia market even cooler.

"When Canadians are suffering, I don't think anybody should be allowed to come from outside of Canada and be able to purchase or scoop up five, six, seven or 10 houses," Cowan said.

Instead Cowan says they should only be allowed to purchase one. She says about 30 per cent of her sales over the past two years have been to non-Canadians.

"I've sold a lot of homes this year to Canadians, but I've sold a lot of homes to foreigners and they also contribute to our market.… If they can afford it, why shouldn't they be allowed to buy real estate if they want — if they're allowed to live here?"

Most importantly, she says, Nova Scotians who can't afford to buy a home will still not be able to afford one while the new two-year law is on the books.

"I don't think it's going to have any impact but a negative impact for Nova Scotia," Cowan said. "And the other side of that is one of the things that we're lacking right now is doctors. And where are these doctors coming from?"

The act was introduced in the House of Commons in April of 2022. Among the exceptions are temporary residents studying in Canada if they:

  • Are enrolled in a program of authorized study at a designated learning institution as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

  • Have filed income tax returns for each of the five taxation years preceding the year in which the purchase was made.

  • Have been physically present in Canada for a minimum of 244 days in each of the five calendar years preceding the year in which the purchase was made.

  • Have not previously purchased a residential property in Canada while the prohibition is in effect.

  • Purchase a property for a price not exceeding $500,000.

Temporary residents working in Canada if they:

  • Hold a valid work permit or are authorized to work in Canada.

  • Have worked full-time in Canada for at least three years within the four years preceding the year in which the purchase was made.

  • Have filed income tax returns for three of the four taxation years preceding the year in which the purchase was made.

  • Have not previously purchased a residential property in Canada while the prohibition is in effect.

For now, the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors (NSAR) is advising its members about how to deal with the new law. In a statement to its members the association said it is "extremely disappointed by the government's decision to move forward with this legislation and the poorly timed  roll-out of the regulations."

"Members of Parliament that supported the introduction of this measure need to recognize that it will have a detrimental impact on Canada's reputation, labour market, economy and severely hinder our ability to attract global talent."

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