Editorial: How BC Parties’ Housing Policies Compare #3

Part three – Greens: Casting a critical eye over Liberal, NDP and Green housing pledges ahead of the BC election
Joannah Connolly
May 5, 2017

Trailing in the polls as they are, the Greens can afford to be a bit more radical in their approach – and when it comes to their housing platform, that’s certainly the case. Arguably taking the toughest line of all three parties when it comes to real estate market intervention, here are the salient points.

·  The Greens plan to expand the Liberals’ foreign buyer tax across BC and increase it from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. Yes, you read that right. All of BC, 30 per cent. Those Greens are not messing around. Green Party spokesperson CJ Summers told Global BC Morning News this week that it shows the party has a “backbone” when it comes to housing policy. For others, it’s a very hard line to be taken by a party generally perceived as warm and fuzzy. As Don Campbell said to me on the Real Estate Therapist radio show, “Thirty per cent? Why not 127 per cent? Why not build a wall? It gets to a point where it’s not that much of a leap.” It certainly would send a very clear message to overseas buyers that they are not welcome here – or, if they want in, they’ll have to pay through the nose. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends entirely on your point of view. As an immigrant, I’m personally in the “bad thing” camp.

·  The Greens would also axe Property Transfer Tax on home purchases under $200,000. Then, at the other end of the market, they would increase PTT on a sliding scale up to 12 per cent for homes over $3 million. This kind of “luxury home tax” is a good idea and one that I have been advocating for some time, for home buyers with deep pockets to help subsidize buyers at the lower end of the market. I just don’t think it’s right to then add another 30 per cent for overseas buyers on top of that – a luxury home tax should be enough.

·  To tackle real estate speculation, the Greens would also introduce a lifetime capital gains tax on profits of over $750,000 made from the sale of a home, even if the home is a primary residence (unlike current rules), if the seller sells the property within five years of purchase. That would certainly discourage speculation, depending on the amount (as yet unspecified) but would be tough for BC families who sell their homes for whatever reason within five years and are not allowed to keep a windfall of profits made.

·  The party says it will spend $750 million a year on “affordable” (social) housing, working with the federal government on freeing up land to build up to 4,000 units of non-market rental each year. Just like the NDP and Liberal social housing investment promises, this is great but ambiguous in terms of where this cash injection is coming from.

·  Finally, the Greens say they will crack down on any money laundering and tax evasion that may be occurring via overseas purchases of BC real estate, by working with the federal government. A laudable goal, although tough to achieve. Good luck with that.

What do you think of the Liberal, NDP and Green housing platforms? Please comment in the box below.

Joannah Connolly
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.