The brief debate on a new real estate tax

Burnaby Heights housing reduced

On July 25 British Columbia took a step into the unknown. The government introduced a bill to impose a 15 per cent additional tax on sales of residential property — but only within Metro Vancouver, and only “where the transferee or purchaser is a foreign national, as well as certain corporations or trusts that involve foreign nationals.”

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong (CBC News)

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong (CBC News)

In calling a rare summer meeting of the Legislature to approve this measure, the BC Liberal government was responding to rising public anxiety around the housing market. One-year price increases for detached homes were approaching 50 per cent in parts of Metro Vancouver. The Liberals had linked this price inflation to a shortage of housing supply; this site predicted in March 2016 that they would not take dramatic action to restrain demand. The opposition New Democrats called this special legislative session “the flip-flop session.” Continue reading

Vancouver home prices: don’t expect a government counter-attack

Edgemont, District of North Vancouver

Edgemont, District of North Vancouver

[This speculative piece was clearly off base. Three months after it was published, the Government of B.C. introduced a 15 per cent tax on foreign real estate investment within Metro Vancouver in an effort to cool the housing market.]

The current monthly report on Greater Vancouver real estate shows the benchmark price for detached homes in the west of the City of Vancouver crossing the $3,000,000 threshold. This is in an urban region where Statistics Canada reported the median household income as $73,390 in 2013.

Until recently, governments downplayed the significance of runaway home prices. The problem appeared to be mostly confined to detached homes in a few upscale enclaves. This has changed, with detached homes in a growing number of neighbourhoods crossing the $1,000,000 mark — in Burnaby East, for example, an area that mixes modest and middling properties. Apartment prices are rising sharply in Vancouver and Burnaby after years of slow or no increase.

Analysts and news media have identified the main driver as safe-haven investment from foreign sources, especially China — drawn by a liveable Chinese-speaking city, a cheap Canadian dollar, low interest rates and an open real estate market.  The British Columbia government has not confirmed this proposition, but it has started to gather data on the citizenship of property buyers, for what that’s worth. The provincial opposition leader has recently suggested that money-laundering is part of the foreign investment equation. Continue reading

Demolition in a vintage rental neighbourhood

High Style Living

Five years after tower construction first jumped the Skytrain line at Metrotown, the City of Burnaby continues to enable the destruction of 1950s and ’60s era rental housing in the area.

Rick McGowan, a neighbourhood activist and townhome owner, estimates that 560 rental units have been replaced by owner-occupied condo towers, or are slated for demolition. More worrying, he says, is the fact that there is no end in sight. Continue reading

Follow-up on a fatal crash and a homeless camp

1-DSC_2442

On May 18 of this year we published a letter to Doug Bing, a member of the British Columbia Legislature, about a fatal crash on a provincial highway near our home in suburban Maple Ridge. The layout of the highway intersection where the crash took place had been unsafe for years.

In recent weeks, technicians have installed a low-tech improvement at the problem corner. This modest screen, pictured above, deters southbound drivers from making the last-minute lane switch that was putting all directions at risk. If the pylons get mowed down, they can be re-installed. Thanks to Mr. Bing for taking in interest in this issue. Continue reading

2015 property taxes — further to

Walnut Grove, Langley Township

Walnut Grove, Langley Township

Last week’s post on 2015 British Columbia property taxes was shared with the “Maple Ridge Council Watch” Facebook group, and there were comments on that site about  gaps in my presentation.

I’ll point out again that there’s no magic lens to provide clarity on the property tax situation. The system is complicated, and the question of whether you or I are receiving value or fair treatment will always be open to debate. Continue reading

Property taxes 2015 – in search of the obvious

Ladner, Municipality of Delta

Ladner, Municipality of Delta

Every spring, homeowners across British Columbia receive a statement from their local government demanding payment for local and regional services, including elementary and secondary education.

The individual statements are complex enough. But with 30 cities and towns in the Fraseropolis area alone, all facing different economic circumstances and delivering services in  different ways, and a wide range of property values within each jurisdiction, it’s close to impossible for the lone taxpayer to evaluate their own position in terms of fairness and value. Continue reading

A homeless camp in a Vancouver suburb

2015 homeless camp 1 reduced

Nicole Read, the mayor in my home city of Maple Ridge, won election as a political newcomer in November 2014. The local election campaign was marked by concern over downtown property crime, linked by some to the presence of homeless people in vacant spaces nearby. The homeless have been a prominent feature of the town centre for more than a decade, but the incumbent mayor and council were blamed and Read  got the political benefit.

Weeks after the mayor’s swearing-in, a colourful row of tents sprang up on a residential street 200 metres from my home. In the 2014 Metro Vancouver homeless count, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows together were said to have 39 unsheltered homeless people. By July 2015, the estimated population of the Cliff Avenue camp was about 60. Continue reading