Ontario, Canada brings in foreign housing tax to cool market

Ontario, Canada brings in foreign housing tax to cool market

The new measure applies to non-Canadian citizens, non-permanent residents, and corporations buying residential properties containing up to six units. Canadians are moving to Ontario at the fastest rate in 29 years, and the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) continues to be one of the most attractive places in the country for newcomers. It will be retroactively effective as of Friday, once enabling legislation goes through. The premier said officials are taking aim at speculators and are tackling affordability.

"With this tax, we are targeting people who aren't looking for a place to raise a family - they're looking only for a quick profit or a safe place to park their money", Wynne said.

Notably, the issue of foreign buyers has been particularly controversial, with critics blaming them for speculation within the housing market but without hard data to support their contentions.

The decision by the province of Ontario's government will impose a 15 per cent "Non-Resident Speculation Tax" on non-Canadians and non-permanent residents buying residential properties in the metropolitan area of nearly 7 million people. In January B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced the tax would be lifted for those who have a work permit in order to encourage more people to come to the province to work.

The number of sales in Metro Vancouver plunged in the wake of the new tax, but the market appears to have bounced back since.

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The federal finance minister is set to meet Tuesday with his Ontario counterpart and the mayor of Toronto to discuss the hot housing market in the Greater Toronto Area.

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.

"The issue we're facing on housing affordability affects nearly everyone - those with lower incomes being priced out of the city and forced to commute hours every day to work, middle income earners struggling to afford rent and young couples looking to start a family and looking to acquire their first home and feeling an increasing sense of impossibility", he said.

Another housing measure would expand rent control, which now only applies only to units built before November 1991. CMHC will be expanding its affordable housing flexibilities to existing rental properties such as social housing projects with up to 5 years remaining in the Operating Agreement, which previously only applied to new rental properties. Over the past ten years, the annual rent increase guideline has averaged two per cent.

Tenants groups welcomed the move.

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The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is calling on the province to stop plans to impose a new foreign buyers tax and rent control. "That will mean incentives they will have to provide at the same time as they announce whatever it is they are going to do about rent control to encourage people to build this housing". Other measures to be implemented by the CMHC next month include the introduction of improved underwriting flexibilities and a revised premium schedule supporting increased affordable housing. "We quickly discovered the pre-build market is very heated, too", he said.

The Ontario Fair Housing Plan includes options to boost housing supply, prevent egregious rent increases and rein in excessive speculation.

A rapid acceleration in home prices in Toronto had prompted some economists to voice fears that the real estate market in Canada's most populous city is in a bubble and raised concerns about the ability of first-time buyers to afford a home.

To mitigate the potential negative impacts that closing the so-called 1991 loophole could have on new rental construction, Ontario's Fair Housing Plan will also introduce a targeted $125-million, five-year program, offering a rebate on a portion of development charges for rental apartment buildings.

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