Foreign Ownership Statistics? Finally!
On a recent trip to Australia the obvious conversation of Real Estate ensued. While not as obsessed with the topic as we are as Vancouverites, there is obviously a high level of interest. I got chatting to a broker owner and developer of a real estate office from a small town south of the Sunshine Coast, which is located about an hour from the city of Brisbane.
We got chatting about foreign ownership in our respective countries and I brought up the topic that often causes debate here in Vancouver – the fact that we just don’t know how many homes and condos are owned by foreigners. The Australian broker found this extremely hard to believe. He proceeded to ask about the impact of foreign ownership on the market – how much was fuelling speculation, how do we know if news articles about ownership are correct, how many units are sitting empty? I didn’t have any answers. Sure – we can speculate based on what we read in the press, but without any concrete data, we’re just fuelling more speculation, of the media variety.
The best I could do with regards to statistics, was to reference a study conducted by Andy Yan of UBC and BTAworks, which concluded that 15% of Vancouver condos sit empty, which prompted the populous that believe empty home & condos are fuelling speculation of house prices from overseas owners to jump up and down and call for reform, tracking of statistics or even restriction of foreign ownership!
It was with great interest that I read Mr Yan’s report, as I took the example of my parents, who have recently sold their family home, and re-located to the downtown core. Their property is likely empty over 50% of the year as they travel. So it’s probable that their property is one that was included in this study as sitting vacant. Realistically this isn’t the case, they spend time in Vancouver, they eat at restaurants, they shop at grocery stores and have gym memberships and so on. They spend money in Vancouver.
I also chatter in England about the possibility of taxing empty homes and condos with additional levies, I personally believe it’s about time we had some more concrete data on the issue.
So, it is with great interest that I read this week that Vancouver is going to start tracking the extent of foreign ownership in Vancouver.
Our Mayor Gregor Robertson announced that his recently created ‘Affordable Housing Agency’ will begin collecting data on vacant homes in the market place, and aim’s to report on ways to limit speculation by investors or unnecessary vacancies in Vancouver.
Let’s keep our eye on this task force and any reports they produce.
What do you think would be a good way to deal with the issue of overseas investors viewing Vancouver as a place to securely park their money? Comment below.