Singh promises 20 per cent tax on foreign homebuyers in bid for B.C. votes

·4 min read

BURNABY, B.C. — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is pitching a 20 per cent foreign homebuyers' tax in a bid to capture votes in Metro Vancouver ridings where the cost of housing has skyrocketed beyond the reach of many middle-income families.

Speaking in front of a multi-million dollar home in Burnaby, B.C., on Wednesday, Singh said the tax would apply to the sale of homes to individuals who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

The promise mirrors one he made in the 2019 election and comes after the Liberal government proposed a one-per-cent annual tax on the value of homes owned by non-residents in its spring budget.

British Columbia already has a 20 per cent tax on the purchase of homes by foreigners in several parts of the province. Though it had a short-term cooling effect when first introduced at 15 per cent on Metro Vancouver homes in 2016, prices have continued to climb.

Singh also promised an NDP government would build 500,000 affordable homes in 10 years and would target money laundering and organized crime in the housing sector by making it harder to hide behind nameless companies and giving regulators more teeth.

The NDP leader placed the blame for housing prices squarely on Justin Trudeau, who also campaigned in B.C. on Wednesday. Singh accused the Liberal leader of allowing rents to rise and housing prices to balloon by more than 20 per cent in less than a year in Vancouver.

"Over the past six years, things have just gotten so much worse. People cannot find a home that's in their budget," said Singh, who was joined by a young couple who have struggled to find housing.

"One of the big reasons why this is happening is because Justin Trudeau has let this happen."

He framed the election as a choice between the Liberals allowing "rich investors" to be the priority and New Democrats who are going to take "big money" out of housing, so people aren't competing with corporations.

Both the NDP and Liberals lost ground in Metro Vancouver in the 2019 election to the Conservatives. The Tories snatched the New Democrat-held riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, while also taking key ridings from Liberals including South Surrey-White Rock, Cloverdale-Langley City, and Steveston-Richmond East.

The Liberal government kicked off a 10-year, multibillion-dollar national housing strategy in 2018-19. The parliamentary budget officer recently found program delays at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, expired community housing deals with the provinces and a shift toward more expensive affordable homes have limited the impact of the strategy.

Advocates have said the strategy needs to be rebuilt as it doesn't do enough to help provinces outside of Ontario.

Jill Atkey, the CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, said in an earlier interview that the application process for funding was "off-putting" to many in the non-profit housing sector, with more than 200 questions on the application and a long wait time for approval.

Singh said addressing the housing issue was "a matter of will" that other parties did not have the desire to tackle.

But he did not directly answer questions about how the New Democrats would change existing programs to ensure housing targets that the Liberal government has failed to reach would be met under his leadership.

Singh, the incumbent candidate in Burnaby South, sidestepped questions about the location he chose for Wednesday's announcement. He stood in front of a house valued at about $2 million, with a sign behind him that read, "Trudeau's housing crisis."

Asked why he was pitching a one-time tax on the purchase of foreign homes rather than an annual tax on the value of homes, as the Liberals have proposed, Singh said the goal wasn't to create a revenue stream but rather to discourage foreign investors from buying Canadian housing.

"The fundamental difference is our approach is we want to get big money out of housing," Singh said. "Those forces are powerful and they're making it so Canadians who are looking to buy a home are having to compete with people who are using the housing market like a stock market."

He said the one-time tax would do more to deter profiteering than an annual tax.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2021.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting