Vancouver foreign buyers ban may be on the cards after Council vote today

Nov 29 2017, 12:53 am

Vancouver City Council is voting on Wednesday on its new Housing Action Plan, which includes looking into banning foreign buyers of real estate in the city.

The three-year plan includes a proposal to work with senior governments to explore “restricting property ownership by non-permanent residents.”

It should be noted that a ban on foreign owners would require the approval of the BC government, and they are currently not considering it.


The action plan was released with the City’s 10-year Housing Vancouver Strategy, a raft of measures which will also be voted on in Council on Wednesday.

Speculation tax also proposed

Speaking to Daily Hive on Friday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the City needs more tools to deal with real estate speculation.

“Another piece is to get a provincial speculation tax or progressive property tax,” said Robertson.

“And the federal government [needs] to step up on enforcing their capital gains taxes to make sure that the commodity trading of real estate is reduced significantly.”

Exploring a ban on foreign ownership, and examining the example of New Zealand, where foreign buyers are already being banned, is marked as a high priority in the plan.

Looking into a potential foreign buyers ban is also being recommended by City staff.

The move follows the introduction of an Empty Homes Tax, and regulation of short-term rentals like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Homeaway.

It also follows plans to force developers to restrict pre-sales of property to Metro Vancouver residents, possibly for the first the first 30 days.

And only last week, Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy, at a cost of $40 billion over 10 years.

Land could be pre-zoned for 100% rentals

Two people moving into a new home with boxes. Real estate. Property. Vancouver.

(Daxiao Productions/ Shutterstock)

Among the other measures touted in the new strategy is pre-zoning land to require 100% rental housing or 20% social housing.

“That’s a zoning condition that will prevent developers and landowners speculating on luxury condo pricing, if they know there’ll be requirements to build rental and social housing at key sites,” said Robertson.

Robertson said the City had heard “loud and clear” the need to protect renters as part of the strategy, but his hands were tied to a certain extent.

“We need approval from the BC government to do rental only zones exclusively in parts of the city,” he said.

Robertson said he is talking to Housing Minister Selina Robinson about that proposal and he hopes to see action in the New Year.

Developer contributions determined by neighbourhood

As well, the strategy proposes altering Community Amenity Contributions, in-kind or cash contributions required by the City for developments that involve rezoning.

The contributions are currently decided on a case-by-case basis, but the strategy proposes setting fixed contribution rates according to neighbourhood.

“We would definitely be needing to remove those amenity charges on rental housing outside of the Downtown to provide more market certainty and speed in getting rental housing built, faster than condos would go through the system,” said Robertson.

“I expect the formulas for setting any amenity charges will adjust based on the neighbourhood and if it’s not working then City Staff can recommend changes to Council, so we can ensure there’s new homes being built throughout the city.”

Rezoning single-family neighbourhoods

Single family home real estate in Vancouver (romakoma/Shutterstock)

Single family home real estate in Vancouver (romakoma/Shutterstock)

The City is also hoping to rezone single-family home neighbourhoods, to allow rowhouses, townhouses, and low rise apartments.

Robertson said the City is seeing “a huge pressing need” for this type of move, so families can afford to live close to parks and schools.

“That’s a big game changer for Vancouver neighbourhoods, to make them more affordable for people who live and work here, when the single-family home neighbourhoods are so expensive and inaccessible to the vast majority of Vancouverites. So that’s a huge change,” he said.

‘It’s got to be tied to local incomes’

Overall, the new housing strategy aims to enable the building of 72,000 homes in Vancouver over the next 10 years.

Robertson said he expects the new tools being proposed to make that happen to get “good  support” at Council.

“Overall, the focus is a huge increase in new housing supply that is the right kind of supply for people who live here, it’s got to be tied to local incomes, and affordable,” he said.

“And that’s the housing that needs to be built for the next decade. [That] should make a big dent in the affordable housing crunch.”

To read the documents and full proposals being voted on, go here:

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