Canada Extends Foreign Home Buyer Ban
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Canada Extends Foreign Home Buyer Ban

The law that forbids non-residents from acquiring homes in most areas has affected the luxury end of urban markets, experts say

By MICHAEL KAMINER
Tue, Feb 6, 2024 8:56amGrey Clock 2 min

Canada’s government has extended through the end of 2026 a controversial ban on foreign home buyers that took effect last January after years of debate.

“For years, foreign money has been coming into Canada to buy up residential real estate, increasing housing affordability concerns in cities across the country, and particularly in major urban centres,” Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and minister of finance, said in a news release yesterday. “Foreign ownership has also fuelled worries about Canadians being priced out of housing markets in cities and towns across the country.”

The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act forbids non-citizens from buying residential property in most urban areas, though it includes a long list of exceptions. Property in many rural and “recreational” regions is exempt; most students, refugees, permanent residents, spouses of Canadian citizens, and some temporary workers in Canada may still buy homes.

While the government says the ban will help ease Canada’s severe housing crunch, critics in the real estate industry counter that the prohibition is misguided―and ineffective.

“The newly announced two-year extension is completely unnecessary, considering the fact there is no analysis, evidence or data from Statistics Canada, CMHC [Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation] or Finance Canada, to support the government’s intended impact on housing affordability in Canada,” said Janice Myers, CEO of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), in a statement Monday. “If the government decides to move forward with this baseless extension, CREA urges them to consider recommendations including exempting pre-construction financing, defining and exempting recreational property, including CUSMA [Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement] exemptions, and giving provinces input to tailor to their housing market requirements,” she added.

Don Kottick, the president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, agreed.

“Canada’s housing market has been driven almost entirely by the housing needs and demands of locals, as well as by population gains due to in-migration of Canadians from other cities, and through immigration,” he told Mansion Global in an email. “The extension of the foreign buyers ban will continue to have little or no impact on housing affordability and housing prices. This policy has only confused and frustrated those from other countries with crucial skills, talent and capital that Canada has been striving to attract and retain.”

The ban has also chilled luxury home sales in key markets like Toronto, said Maureen O’Neill, manager of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada in Toronto. “People who want to sell houses for more than C$5 million [US$3.92 million] can no longer rely on the buyers they used to count on globally,” she said. “It’s another extra burden on selling a house.”

That burden may soon get even heavier; Toronto’s mayor last week endorsed a 10% tax on foreign home buyers in that city, Canada’s largest. The province of Ontario already imposes its own 25% “non-resident speculation tax” on foreign buyers.

Though Canadian data on non-resident buyers is limited, the CBC last year reported that in British Columbia―one of the nation’s hottest housing markets―only about 1.1% of transactions in 2021 involved a foreign buyer, a drop of 3% in 2017. At the time, Ontario’s government told the CBC it had seen “a downward trend” in foreigners buying property since it began taxing non-resident purchases in 2017.



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

By ELAINE YU
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 3 min

Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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