Election over but the effects will linger in Metro Vancouver

The federal election is over and those who think nothing has changed should prepare themselves for some of the most intrusive legislation ever into the private-sector housing market. It has never been more apparent that this much housing policy is a reaction to headlines and social media. Common sense is trumped by the need to appear to be doing something, anything, to get elected.

For instance, foreign home buyers – already subject in B.C. the highest taxes in the world – are now virtually a non-entity in the Metro Vancouver real estate market, in both the commercial and residential sectors. Yet, at the same time that the federal government wants to increase immigration to 400,000 persons per year, it plans to ban foreign purchases of Canadian homes for two years. This means that someone planning to move to Canada cannot buy and prepare a home for their family’s arrival until they achieve citizenship without paying perhaps a hefty tax. A family will also be penalized if they purchase an apartment for their foreign student in Vancouver. Please come but don’t touch.

Then there is the plan to reduce the cost of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. insurance by 25 per cent while increasing the ceiling on eligible mortgages to $1.25 million, from $1 million.

Hello? This is clearly an inflationary measure, convincing more entry level buyers to purchase while doing nothing to increase affordability.
There is also the planned anti-flipping tax, which is politically palatable but a disincentive to increasing the much-needed supply of affordable strata homes or rentals. This is because land assembly of existing houses or strata windups is often the first step in multi-family development. These properties are, ideally, assembled and then sold within a year to speed the development process. Another layer of tax on homes bought and sold within 12 months will discourage development while adding higher costs to the resulting new strata or rental units.

Port Moody is among the markets that could be hurt. A large new residential development approved for the city’s Coronation Park area – updated in September to now include 2,650 strata units and a rent-to-own program– spurred single-family land assemblies in the area for higher-density homes, such as badly-needed townhouses. In September, only 19 townhouses were added to Port Moody listings, and 14 of them sold. A mere 28 new townhouse units have started construction in Port Moody for all of this year.

Port Moody has a dramatic shortage, but there is a pressing need for middle-market housing right across Greater Vancouver. In September the total active listings for townhouses was less than 1,100 units, down nearly 50 per cent from the same period a year ago. In fact, the total number of residential listings in Greater Vancouver hasn’t been this low in September going back to 1993 and beyond.

So what to do? As always, keep calm and carry on. Responsible people want and need to buy a home for their family’s comfort and financial security and will continue to do so, regardless of the barriers to their destination.

Kevin Skipworth
Partner/Broker and Chief Economist at Dexter Realty