Ontario releases foreign buyer data ahead of housing forum

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Foreign buyers were involved in roughly 4.7 per cent of the 18,282 residential and agricultural real estate purchases recorded in the Greater Golden Horseshoe between April 24 and May 26, the province reported yesterday in a news release. The Ontario government began tracking the data through the land transfer tax system following the introduction of its Fair Housing Plan, a package of 16 measures aimed at addressing affordability challenges, including a non-resident speculation tax.

“Through the Fair Housing Plan, our government sought to stabilize the market and give more individuals and young families an opportunity to buy a home,” said Minister of Finance Charles Sousa. “Early indicators show that the plan is working.”

The newly released data reflect real estate purchases to which the non-resident speculation tax may apply. Effective April 21, the tax applies to transactions involving properties acquired or purchased by foreign corporations or individuals without citizenship or permanent residency.

Some individuals, including refugees and nominees of Ontario’s economic immigration program, may be eligible for an exemption from the tax. Other individuals, including international students and individuals who have become permanent residents or have been working in Ontario, may be able to claim a tax rebate.

Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association, who welcomed the gathering and sharing of foreign buyer data, pointed out that the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) had previously arrived at a similar statistic. Through a survey last fall, TREB, which opposed a foreign buyer tax, found that foreign buyers were involved in 4.9 per cent of GTA home sales.

“The ultimate solution to addressing the barriers facing Ontario home buyers is to increase housing supply,” Hudak said in a statement.

The release of foreign buyer data, which will be updated in the fall, comes ahead of the first meeting today of an expert forum formed by the government to consider how to improve housing affordability. The forum of academics, community groups, developers, economists and the real estate sector will provide advice to the province.

“The panel will examine the challenges faced by the Ontario housing market and use an evidence-based approach on how to make it easier for everyone in Ontario to buy or rent a home,” said Chris Ballard, Minister of Housing and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The forum is expected to convene on a quarterly basis going forward.

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