One of the Vancouver’s most prominent real-estate moguls says the provincial government should tax those who sell properties within a short period of buying them.
Bob Rennie, founder of Rennie Marketing Systems, said the solution for the city’s affordability problem does not lie within foreign ownership.
“If we start to put out a foreign investment tax, we’re going to send a wrong message,” he said. “I’m worried about the optics. I think it hurts Vancouver, it hurts B.C. and it hurts Canada.”
Rennie believes taxing foreign investors will scare off foreigners looking to invest in other things such as manufacturing and job creation.
Rennie proposed taxing property flippers.
“If that condo has gone up and you decide to sell it right away, you sold it to make money and not home ownership,” he said. “You clenched it from the jaws of a young couple who wanted to live there.”
Rennie said with the help of the municipal and provincial governments, the tax should grant $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 to first-time homebuyers. He said with government help, a metric could be established based around tenure of residency and income.
On Friday, he spoke on the issue to a crowd of 1,000 people for the Urban Development Institute luncheon held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Shortly after, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made a statement that echoed the same message. By asking Christy Clark to impose speculation tax, Robertson called for direct action from the provincial government.
“It’s clear that rampant speculation on real estate is driving up prices in Vancouver,” he said. “Vancouver needs the B.C. government to take action on creating a speculation tax and recognize that we need a fair and level playing field to make housing more affordable for residents in Vancouver, and throughout the province.”
But with foreign investors being the centre of attention last week, and property flippers this week, it’s still hard to tell what the proper response to the affordability problem really is.
Kennedy Stewart, New Democrat MP for Burnaby Douglas, called on the federal government to conduct research and document information such as the number of properties under foreign ownership, earlier this week.
“Whether this is driven by foreign investors or domestic investors, you have to get a handle on what’s happening there, so you understand the market,” he said.
Stewart said that municipalities, and even provincial governments are not capable of fully understanding their own housing problems. They require the federal government’s power and access to things like federal tax records and visa patterns to properly fill the void in what is now considered a lack of information.
“What really bothers me about all this is how unprofessional we’re being about our housing markets,” he said. “Understanding what’s going on in your population is now not available in Canada.”
He said the effects of cancelling the long form census are now starting to be felt.
Stewart said that Statistics Canada and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation should conduct research that will further guide provinces and municipalities to each tackling their own problems.