Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Experts Calling for More Data on Foreign Investment in Canadian Real Estate

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Experts Calling for More Data on Foreign Investment in Canadian Real Estate

Article excerpt

Scarce data on foreign real estate investment

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TORONTO - There is scant data available on how many foreign investors are snatching up Canadian homes, and experts say the knowledge gap needs to be filled if policy makers hope to maintain the stability of the country's real estate market.

Foreign investment has become a hot-button issue in Vancouver lately, with many residents blaming demand from offshore buyers who are looking for a safe place to stash their money for the city's soaring home prices.

Critics are also concerned that foreign investors are more likely to pull out of the market at the first sign that prices are heading south, which could exacerbate the extent of a housing correction.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson recently penned a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark suggesting the province introduce a speculation tax on people who flip homes and on luxury properties -- a suggestion that Clark shot down.

The B.C. Real Estate Association maintains it's Vancouver's constrained geography and limited supply of detached homes -- and not demand from foreigners -- that's sending prices through the roof.

But Cameron Muir, the association's chief economist, admits that hard data is difficult to come by.

"The data is not being collected, currently, by government," he says.

All of the uproar over Vancouver's affordability crisis -- there is even a popular Twitter hashtag, #IDontHave1Million -- has highlighted a national issue: data on foreign investment in Canadian real estate is scarce.

"People are putting forward all these solutions on how to fix so-called foreign speculation, but we don't even know if it's really happening," said Kennedy Stewart, the New Democrat MP for Burnaby-Douglas. "This really worries me, because you can really mess up your housing market if you don't use the right mechanism."

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the country's leading mortgage insurer, has tried to fill some of the gaps. …

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