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Ontario, Canada brings in foreign housing tax to cool market

21 April 2017, 02:42 | Melvin Schneider

The package was revealed in Toronto's rapidly growing Liberty Village neighbourhood by Premier Kathleen Wynne, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Housing Minister Chris Ballard. Once legislation passes, the tax would be retroactively applied to 21 April.

Sousa said the tax would take effect on Friday. "They are only looking for a quick profit or a safe place to park their money", she said.

As of Monday, the province will require homebuyers to provide information about who they are, and how they intend to use the property, according to a new post on a provincial government webpage.

Ontario's move comes after Ottawa tried to rein in the market by tightening mortgage requirements and closing tax loopholes used by speculators, and after British Columbia imposed a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax on Vancouver-area homes.

Something similar - called "shadow flipping" - became increasingly common in Vancouver, in which a real estate agent would resell the same previously-owned home mant times before the closing date, driving up the price of the house, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Toronto prices rose 33 percent in March from a year earlier and the average price of a detached home surpassed C$1.2 million ($903,000) last month, sparking warnings from Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz last week that speculation is likely at play.

"There is a need for interventions right now in order to calm what's going on", she said. "And when the rising cost of housing is making more and more people insecure about their future, and about their quality of life in Ontario, we know we have to act".

The government is also planning on extending rent control to all private rental units, including those built after 1991. The provincial government is "aware that a response is needed now to address recent dramatic increases in rents and home prices", he said.

As well, rent controls limiting increases on all buildings to the rate of inflation - as long as it is 2.5 per cent or lower - will be introduced.

Also, there will be an expansion of rent controls to all buildings.

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New powers for Toronto and other municipalities to introduce a tax on vacant homes to encourage owners to sell or rent unoccupied units.

The provincial Liberal government's housing plan contains 16 measures in all.

The province is also looking at making more surplus lands available for development. A government backgrounder on the measures announced today specifically mentions the practice of double-ending, when one agent represents more than one party in a transaction.

Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association, welcomed the review.

The non-resident speculation tax will be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area - from the Niagara region to Peterborough - who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.

A standardized lease document for all tenants.

Wynne said the measures were created to help people afford to rent or buy a home, brushing off a suggestion that the move was more about boosting her approval rating, which has recently plunged to just over 10 per cent, according to polls.

Yousuf Afridi, a Toronto resident who has been house hunting for two years, said the bidding wars this year have been far more intense.

The Northern Ontario Party says a robust economy is a major reason for Toronto's housing shortage. This will contribute to our strengthened enforcement efforts.

He was optimistic about Canada Revenue Agency's promise to support enforcement of tax compliance within the GGH's real estate sector.



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