As mayors and provincial leaders gather for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities summit in Whistler this week, the union is taking the opportunity to renew calls for the province to do more on real estate speculation.
In a document submitted to the province in August, the UBCM said the proposed homeowner registry, announced by the B.C. government in June to shine a light on who is buying B.C. real estate, was “an important first step.” But it added that this legislation needed to be “in conjunction with a broader suite of measures to promote affordability.”
Those additional measures include all levels of government co-operating on the publication of real estate sales data such as condo presale contracts, as well as setting out additional data needs, cracking down on real estate tax evasion and improving co-ordination of regulatory agencies, including the CRA and Fintrac.
The UBCM document stated, “It is well known that Vancouver has become one of the least affordable places to live in the developed world, and that the housing situation in Metro Vancouver has reached a crisis point.”
UBCM’s Special Committee on Housing published a report on BC’s housing crisis earlier this year called A Home for Everyone, which set out four key measures. These were:
• a rental housing strategy to address low rental inventories;
• a demand management strategy to reduce speculation and tax evasion;
• a comprehensive homeless strategy; and
• a collaborative approach by all levels of government towards housing affordability.
“We commend the provincial government for beginning to take action to bring greater transparency to home ownership,” said Sharon Gaetz, mayor of Chilliwack and UBCM vice-president. “Knowing exactly who is purchasing home will help ensure that all real estate owners in the province pay their fair share of taxes. Closing loopholes and better transparency will lead to the kind of enforcement needed to slow speculative real estate purchases that are driving up prices in B.C. beyond what people can afford.”
At the summit Monday, Gaetz announced the UBCM would be submitting a new request to the provincial government in line with its August submission, according to a CBC report from Whistler.
“Right now in housing, there's lots of shell companies, numbered companies and blind trusts that are able to hide ownership, and we think that the data of knowing who owns the homes will really help us in determining our policy.”