B.C.’s proposed foreigner tax to help fund Metro Vancouver housing projects

VICTORIA — While buyers and sellers rush to avoid paying a new 15-per-cent property transfer tax in British Columbia, Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal government apparently can’t wait to start building its election platform on a housing foundation.

Hours before the government passed a law Thursday imposing the additional tax on homes bought in Metro Vancouver by foreign nationals, the government was already banking on the returns to fund housing initiatives in the months leading up to next May’s B.C. election.

“If foreign purchases continue at the pace they’ve been at, it’s a sizable amount of money,” said Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

The Liberals’ housing bill passed unanimously Thursday evening with support from the Opposition NDP.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman and de Jong said the new tax is already being earmarked to fund government housing initiatives already in the works. The ministers said initiatives for renters, low-income earners and first-time buyers are set to roll out in the fall, months before the election that is expected to feature housing as a major battleground.

But the tax, announced Monday, has lawyers and notaries who transfer real estate for a living working overtime to process property closings by the end of Friday, said Richard Bell of Bell Alliance.