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Victoria wants 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers implemented immediately

Decision is in the province’s hands to implement tax

The City of Victoria could soon be following in the footsteps of Vancouver and Ontario when it comes to implementing a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers.

Councillors recently voted 5-3 in favour of asking the provincial government to immediately implement a 15 per cent tax on residential real estate purcahses by anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident or if they are purchasing residential real estate for the purposes of speculation. The tax would not apply to buyers who are in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen or those who have job permits.

“We all know we have a crisis and the cost of home ownership and rent is getting higher and higher and the dream of home ownership is getting further and further away for many of our residents,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who brought foward the motion with Coun. Ben Isitt. “This is asking for action to be taken so our residents can afford homes here.”

The issue is one council has been struggling with for months, since councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday originally brought forward the idea three months ago, following the provincial government’s implementation of a similar 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in Greater Vancouver in an attempt to curb the region’s hot housing market.

Last week, Ontario implemented a similar “non-resident speculation tax,” which will apply to purchases in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, a vast expanse of land which includes Toronto, Hamilton and a number of smaller municipalities.

Vancouver, the Toronto area and Victoria were recently named the three hottest housing markets in the country, according to Bank of Montreal economists.

However, the idea of applying a tax to certain people over others didn’t sit well with many councillors.

Coun. Geoff Young compared the province’s knee-jerk reaction of the housing tax to the head tax applied to Chinese immigrants between 1885 and 1923, as locals feared they presented competition for jobs.

“I really think we may be seen to be on the wrong side of history on this one,” he said. “The government reacted by introducing a popular tax to address the concerns of people who felt they were facing unfair competition for employment … . it’s fairly clear where it’s aimed.”

But Mayor Lisa Helps disagreed, adding the tax was “common sense,” if the other two hottest housing markets have similiar taxes as well.

“It’s about making sure people who come here can afford to live here, whether they come from Syria, China or elsewhere,” she said. “It’s creating a level playing field within the three most expensive housing markets in the country.”

At the regional level, the Capital Regional District recently shelved a proposed 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers to allow municipalities to submit input.

Helps will write to the Premier Christy Clark, asking to implement the tax, however, the ultimate decision is in the province’s hands.