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Budget 2021: Will The New Vacant Property Tax Impact Canadian Housing Prices?

In March of 2021, the Canadian Real Estate Association announced that the average price for a home in Canada was now $715,300, with most provinces seeing an increase of pricing upwards of 20 percent year over year. In the midst of this record-breaking spring market, many Canadian’s anticipated that government intervention may be announced in the Federal 2021 Budget, released on April 19th. While the budget did include major programming announcements surrounding a new federal childcare program and continuing relief for Candian’s impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was minimal new policy implemented to cool the housing market. Most notably, the budget included the implementation of a new Tax on Unproductive Use of Canadian Housing by Foreign Non-Resident Owners and further action against money laundering and terrorist financing through Beneficial Ownership Transparency. We have analyzed these new program proposals to understand the impact, if any, these new policies could have on the Canadian Housing Market

What is the Tax on Unproductive Use of Canadian Housing by Foreign Non-Resident Owners?

The 2021 Budget announced the federal government’s intention to implement a national, annual 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian owned residential real estate that is considered to be vacant or underused, effective January 1, 2022. This policy is aimed towards encouraging the productive use of Canadian housing, and avoiding homes purchased as speculative investments by non-residents sitting empty. The enforcement of this tax will require all owners of property that are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents to file a declaration explaining the current use of the property annually. Failure to file will result in a penalty. It is estimated that this measure will bring in $700 million in revenue over four years, which will be dedicated towards other investments in making housing more affordable in Canada. Before implementation, the government will undergo a consulting period with stakeholders to provide them an opportunity to comment on the specific parameters of the tax – including whether or not different rules should be established for smaller tourism and resort communities.

Other Non-Resident Real Estate Taxes Across Canada

Many provinces have previously implemented speculation taxes targeted towards non-resident foreign investments. For instance, in 2017 Ontario implemented the The Non‑Resident Speculation Tax (otherwise known as the Foreign Buyer’s Tax). This was a 15% tax on the purchase of residential property located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada, by foreign corporations, and taxable trustees. This tax differs from the newly-announced Canada-Wide Non-Resident Vacant Home Tax, as it is a one-time fee charged at the time of purchase. Similarly, in 2018 British Columbia implemented a one-time property transfer tax of 20% in certain metropolitan areas for foreign nationals, foreign corporations or taxable trustees. This came in addition to a separate speculation and vacancy tax, charged annually, with a rate of 2% for foreign owners and satellite families, and 0.5% for Canadian citizens or permanent residents. While both of these programs target reducing the total number of homes sitting empty and foreign speculation in the Canadian real estate market, the previous provincial measures put a greater focus on taxing a larger sum at the time of purchase, instead of a consistent tax paid annually.

Beneficial Ownership Transparency

In addition to new taxes surrounding foreign investments in real estate, the 2021 Budget proposes providing $2.1 million over the next two years to support the implementation of a publicly accessible corporate beneficial ownership registry by 2025. This builds upon ideas brought forth during a public consultation in 2020. A corporate beneficial ownership registry would be intended to help catch individuals who are attempting to launder money, evade taxes, or commit other financial crimes through the purchase of real estate or other activities. This policy has already begun to see positive reactions within the real estate industry. David Oikle, President of the Ontario Real Estate Association commented, “Money laundering is a multibillion-dollar problem in Ontario’s housing market, crowding out hardworking families looking to achieve their dream of one day owning a home… A beneficial ownership registry would help stop the practice of criminals using shell companies to buy up homes, giving law enforcement and government an important tool to keep dirty money out of Canada’s housing market.”

Potential Impacts of the 2021 Budget on the Canadian Real Estate Market

Will this latest measure to cool too-hot-to-handle housing prices have the government’s intended effect? Let’s take a look at how previous similar measures have been absorbed by the market. Earlier this month, Zoocasa analyzed the impact of Ontario’s 2017 Non‑Resident Speculation Tax on the Toronto Region real estate market. The report found that the initial implementation of the tax resulted in a 13% decline in real estate prices in the subsequent quarter, but prices stabilized shortly thereafter.

However, it is important to note that the tax implemented in Ontario had much more significant up-front costs than what is proposed federally. Ontario’s tax is 15% of the purchase price payable on closing, whereas the new federal tax is 1% annually. This could lessen the likelihood of seeing a decrease in property values nationwide, unlike what was seen in the Toronto Region in 2017.

“The purpose of this new measure is to enforce the federal government’s sentiment that Canadian real estate should be first and foremost for the end user, but it’s unlikely that it’ll have a material impact on housing affordability for this group,” says Penelope Graham, Managing Editor at Zoocasa. “It’s clear that unless current supply imbalances in major markets are addressed, upward pressure will remain on real estate prices.

However, we may see a temporary lull in demand when the new OSFI proposal to stress test uninsured mortgages goes into effect, especially among the first-time buyer contingent, which is what we witnessed when this measure was first introduced in 2017.”

Balances for mortgages issued to millennials fell 19.5% between Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, according to TransUnion. As well, a recent analysis by RateHub finds affordability for a family with an income of $100,000 and 20% down payment would be slashed by 5% with the new qualifying floor of 5.25%, compared to the previous 4.79% implemented in 2017.

Source: Zoocasa Real Estate News

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