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Condo owners face bankruptcies as insurance costs soar
Mar 06, 2020

Uninsured condo owners could find themselves bankrupt and homeless if they don’t maintain their suites and personal insurance as strata insurance costs skyrocket, said the Condominium Home Owners' Association of B.C.

The cost of catastrophes, construction, claims and reinsurance has pushed insurance premiums on many British Columbia strata corporations, or condo owner groups, through the roof.

The concern for individual owners is not having their own suite insurance to handle unforeseen crises, said association executive director Tony Gioventu.

If something from a suite causes damage to common property, the suite owner would be responsible for the deductible of the corporation, he said.

Korecki Real Estate Services Inc. manages 7,500 strata units in dozens of Lower Mainland buildings. Of the strata corporations that have recently renewed their insurance, around 90% saw premium increases of 50-100%, Korecki property manager Mike Alavi said. “We saw half of the stratas get hit on December 31, and the other half are going to get hit on April 30,” Alavi said.

Those jumps are above the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s provincial average of 35%, but below some of the jaw-dropping 300-600% increases Gioventu has heard of.

And, with building insurance rates soaring, so are deductibles, payments an individual could find themselves responsible for.

“Those deductibles are no longer $25,000,” Gioventu said. Instead, an owner could face a bill ranging from $100,000 to $750,000.

A problem, Gioventu said, is many people no longer face the condition of insurance for a mortgage once the latter is paid off. And some don’t reinsure, leaving themselves vulnerable.

Moreover, some don’t maintain their suites, leaving themselves open to huge bills if something goes wrong.

“I am amazed at the number of people who don’t purchase homeowner insurance when they live in condos,” Gioventu said.

He cited an issue of people hanging clothes from fire sprinkler heads.

“These types of claims can easily reach $1 million,” he said.

“You could lose your home.”

Gioventu also stressed the need for strata corporations – especially those in aging structures - to be proactive in maintaining their buildings. Neglect is a recipe for incurring a claim that will make reinsurance harder and more costly, he said.

He said some stratas have received insurance notices with massive increases the day before they are due.

“We have stratas that are in a real crisis,” he said.

Gioventu stressed the importance of depreciation reports that can point a strata corporation toward future problems that should be planned for. But, he said, the provincial government has allowed corporations to opt out of such reports, leaving inspections neglected and planning not done.

“The object is to make sure properties are being maintained or repaired,” he said. “They are restricted by what the owners won’t pay for funding.”

Part of that, he explained, is that strata councils need to remember “ they are a board of directors of a company and [they should] behave like that.”

And, that would make getting insurance harder as claims rise.

“The strata is going to end up paying the cost,” he said. “It could potentially end up bankrupting a community.”

Gioventu said the government has a role in mitigating the problems condo owners face.

One plan might be for government to amend legislation to allow stratas to negotiate insurance fee charges.

Source: Jeremy Hainsworth: Glacier Media

February Stats
Mar 03, 2020

Steady demand and low supply benefits home sellers

 

February saw steady home buyer demand and reduced home seller supply across Metro Vancouver.

 

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,150 in February 2020, a 44.9 per cent increase from the 1,484 sales recorded in February 2019, and a 36.9 per cent increase from the 1,571 homes sold in January 2020.

 

Last month’s sales were 15.6 per cent below the 10-year February sales average.

 

“Home buyer demand again saw strong year-over-year increases in February while the total inventory of homes for sale struggled to keep pace,” Ashley Smith, REBGV president said. “This was most pronounced in the condominium market.”

 

There were 4,002 detached, attached and apartment homes newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in February 2020. This represents a 2.8 per cent increase compared to the 3,892 homes listed in February 2019 and a 3.4 per cent increase compared to January 2020 when 3,872 homes were listed.

 

The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 9,195, a 20.7 per cent decrease compared to February 2019 (11,590) and a 6.7 per cent increase compared to January 2020 (8,617).

 

"Our Realtors are reporting increased traffic at open houses and multiple offer scenarios in certain pockets of the market. If you’re considering listing your home for sale, now is a good time to act with increased demand, reduced competition from other sellers, and some upward pressure on prices," says Smith.

 

For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for February 2020 is 23.4 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 17.3 per cent for detached homes, 26.9 per cent for townhomes, and 28.4 per cent for apartments.

 

Generally, analysts say downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.

 

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,020,600. This represents a 0.3 per cent increase over February 2019 and a 2.7 per cent increase over the past six months.

 

Sales of detached homes in February 2020 reached 685, a 52.9 per cent increase from the 448 detached sales recorded in February 2019. The benchmark price for a detached home is $1,433,900. This represents a 0.7 per cent decrease from February 2019 and a 1.9 per cent increase over the past six months.

 

Sales of apartment homes reached 1,061 in February 2020, a 39.8 per cent increase compared to the 759 sales in February 2019. The benchmark price of an apartment property is $677,200. This represents a 0.9 per cent increase from February 2019 and a 3.6 per cent increase over the past six months.

 

Attached home sales in February 2020 totalled 404, a 45.8 per cent increase compared to the 277 sales in February 2019. The benchmark price of an attached home is $785,000. This represents a 0.6 per cent increase from February 2019 and a 1.7 per cent increase over the past six months.

 

Download the February 2020 stats package

January Stats
Feb 04, 2020

Home sale activity up, supply down to start 2020

Home sale and price activity remained steady in Metro Vancouver to start 2020 while home listing activity declined in January.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 1,571 in January 2020, a 42.4 per cent increase from the 1,103 sales recorded in January 2019, and a 22.1 per cent decrease from the 2,016 homes sold in December 2019.

Last month’s sales were 7.3 per cent below the 10-year January sales average.

“We’ve begun 2020 with steady home buyer demand that tracks close to the region’s long-term average,” Ashley Smith, REBGV president said. “Looking at supply, we’re seeing fewer homes listed for sale than is typical for this time of year. As we approach the traditionally more active spring market, we’ll keep a close eye on supply to see if the number of homes being listed is keeping pace with demand.”

There were 3,872 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in January 2020. This represents a 20.1 per cent decrease compared to the 4,848 homes listed in January 2019 and a 143.8 per cent increase compared to December 2019 when 1,588 homes were listed.

Last month’s new listings were 17.4 per cent below January’s 10-year average.

The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 8,617, a 20.3 per cent decrease compared to January 2019 (10,808) and a 0.2 per cent increase compared to December 2019 (8,603), and is 13.7 per cent below the 10-year January average.

For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for January 2020 is 18.2 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 11.6 per cent for detached homes, 22.6 per cent for townhomes, and 23.9 per cent for apartments.

Generally, analysts say downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,008,700. This represents a 1.2 per cent decrease over January 2019, a 1.4 per cent increase over the past six months, and a 0.8 per cent increase compared to December 2019.

Sales of detached homes in January 2020 reached 439, a 29.5 per cent increase from the 339 detached sales recorded in January 2019. The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,431,200. This represents a 1.7 per cent decrease from January 2019, a one per cent increase over the past six months, and a 0.5 per cent increase compared to December 2019.

Sales of apartment homes reached 814 in January 2020, a 45.6 per cent increase compared to the 559 sales in January 2019. The benchmark price of an apartment property is $663,200. This represents a one per cent decrease from January 2019, a 1.5 per cent increase over the past six months, and a one per cent increase compared to December 2019.

Attached home sales in January 2020 totalled 318, a 55.1 per cent increase compared to the 205 sales in January 2019. The benchmark price of an attached unit is $782,500. This represents a 0.7 per cent decrease from January 2019, a 1.6 per cent increase over the past six months, and a 0.5 per cent increase compared to December 2019.

Download the January 2020 stats package

 
December Stats
Jan 03, 2020

Home sales decline below long-term averages in 2019 despite increased demand to end the year

 

The Metro Vancouver housing market experienced below average sales activity and moderate price declines in 2019.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that sales of detached, attached and apartment homes reached 25,351 in 2019, a three per cent increase from the 24,619 sales recorded in 2018, and a 29.6 per cent decrease over the 35,993 residential sales in 2017.

Last year’s sales total was 20.3 per cent below the region’s 10-year sales average.

“We didn’t see typical seasonal patterns in 2019. Home buyer demand was quieter in the normally busy spring season and it picked up in the second half of the year,” Ashley Smith, REBGV president said. “In terms of home values, prices dipped between two and four per cent across the region last year depending on property type.”

Home listings on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver reached 51,918 in 2019. This is a 3.2 per cent decrease compared to the 53,614 homes listed in 2018 and a five per cent decrease compared to the 54,655 homes listed in 2017.Last year’s listings total was 7.6 per cent below the 10-year average.

“Home buyer confidence was a factor throughout the year. In the first quarter, many prospective buyers were in a holding pattern, waiting to see how prices would react to the mortgage stress test, new taxes, and other policy changes,” Smith said. “Confidence started to return in the summer, and we saw above average sales in the final quarter of 2019.”

The MLS® HPI composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver ends the year at $1,001,000. This is a 3.1 per cent decrease compared to December 2018.

The benchmark price of apartments decreased 2.7 per cent in the region last year. Townhomes decreased 2.4 per cent and detached homes decreased four per cent.

December summary

REBGV reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,016 in December 2019, an 88.1 per cent increase from the 1,072 sales recorded in December 2018, and a 19.3 per cent decrease from the 2,498 homes sold in November 2019.

Last month’s sales were 9.5 per cent above the 10-year December sales average.

There were 1,588 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale on the MLS® in Metro Vancouver in December 2019. This represents a 12.9 per cent increase compared to the 1,407 homes listed in December 2018 and a 46.8 per cent decrease compared to November 2019 when 2,987 homes were listed.

The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 8,603, a 16.3 per cent decrease compared to December 2018 (10,275) and a 20.1 per cent decrease compared to November 2019 (10,770).

For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for December 2019 is 23.4 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 15.2 per cent for detached homes, 25.7 per cent for townhomes, and 32.5 per cent for apartments.

Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.

Sales of detached homes in December 2019 reached 599, a 72.1 per cent increase from the 348 detached sales recorded in December 2018. The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,423,500. This represents a four per cent decrease from December 2018, and a 0.6 per cent increase compared to November 2019.

Sales of apartment homes reached 1,053 in December 2019, a 96.8 per cent increase compared to the 535 sales in December 2018. The benchmark price of an apartment property is $656,700. This represents a 2.7 per cent decrease from December 2018, and a 0.8 per cent increase compared to November 2019.

Attached home sales in December 2019 totalled 364, a 92.6 per cent increase compared to the 189 sales in December 2018. The benchmark price of an attached home is $778,400. This represents a 2.4 per cent decrease from December 2018, and a 0.7 per cent increase compared to November 2019.

Download the December 2019 stats package

BC housing market to enjoy stronger sales and starts in 2020
Dec 20, 2019

Home sales and construction activity in British Columbia will be on the upswing next year, continuing trends already well underway during the second half of 2019, according to veteran industry observers.

In their recent joint piece for BIV.com, Business Council of British Columbia executive VP / chief policy officer Jock Finlayson and chief economist Ken Peacock noted that “a sooner-than-expected upturn in the residential real estate sector is also a plus for next year.”

The housing market can look forward to further recovery in 2020, “and residential building activity will surprise on the upside.”

“Under the weight of stress tests, demand-dampening tax measures and escalating affordability challenges, home sales fell precipitously in recent years. But in the second half of 2019 sales activity jumped, resulting in more balanced market conditions,” the duo wrote.

Expansion of the inventory of other housing types will prove to be a significant driver of activity, as well.

“The BC government’s plan to develop more rental, co-op and non-market housing should add to new home construction,” Finlayson and Peacock said. “In line with stronger sales activity, we expect average resale home prices in the Lower Mainland to edge higher in 2020 and BC housing starts to remain close to 2019’s above-average level.”

A RE/MAX analysis earlier this month had similar conclusions, with a mixture of economic and demographic conditions leading to a “bottoming out” of the province’s housing slowdown within two years.

Citing trends data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, RE/MAX stated that starts are expected to hover between a low of 39,300 and a high of 42,300 by the end of this year, and a low of 40,700 and a high of 44,700 in 2020.

This is likely to further intensify into a low of 41,900 starts and a high of 46,900 by 2021.

Meanwhile, sales are projected to climb to a maximum of 84,400 in 2020 and 90,800 in 2021. This will be a breath of fresh air after the muted 78,000 transactions in 2018 and a further dip to around 69,000 this year.

Source: Ephraim Vecina: Mortgaqe Broker News

BCREA Stats Release
Dec 12, 2019

Home Sales Firming Across the Province

Vancouver, BC – December 12, 2019. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 6,616 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in November, an increase of 27.5 per cent from the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price in the province was $746,939, an increase of 5.5 per cent from November 2018. Total sales dollar volume was $4.94 billion, a 34.4 per cent increase from the same month last year. 

"After several months of strong gains, home sales are now firming around
long-run averages," said BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. "We
expect 2020 will be a much more typical year for markets compared to the
volatility of recent years."

MLS® residential active listings in the province were down 6.6 per cent from November 2018 to 31,310 units, and down for a seventh straight month on a seasonally adjusted basis. Overall market conditions remain balanced with a sales-to-active listings ratio of 21 per cent.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 6 per cent to $50.23 billion, compared with the same period in 2018. Residential unit sales were 3.9 per cent lower at 72,106 units, while the average MLS® residential price was down 2.2 per cent year-to date at $696,574.
 
November Stats
Dec 03, 2019

December 3, 2019

Metro Vancouver home sales return to historically typical levels.After a quieter first half of 2019, home buyer activity has returned to more historically typical levels in Metro Vancouver*.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,498 in November 2019, a 55.3 per cent increase from the 1,608 sales recorded in November 2018, and a 12.6 per cent decline from the 2,858 homes sold in October 2019.

Last month’s sales were four per cent above the 10-year November sales average.“We started to see more home buyer confidence in the summer and this trend continues today,” says Ashley Smith, REBGV president. “It’ll be important to watch home listing levels over the next few months to see if supply can stay in line with home buyer demand.” 

There were 2,987 detached, attached and apartment homes newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in November 2019. This represents a 13.7 per cent decrease compared to the 3,461 homes listed in November 2018 and a 26.7 per cent decrease compared to October 2019 when 4,074 homes were listed.

The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 10,770, a 12.5 per cent decrease compared to November 2018 (12,307) and a 12 per cent decrease compared to October 2019 (12,236).

For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for November 2019 is 23.2 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 17.2 per cent for detached homes, 24.9 per cent for townhomes, and 29.3 per cent for apartments.

Generally, analysts say downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.

“In today’s market, the intensity of home buyer demand depends on neighbourhood, property type, and price point,” Smith said. “To better understand the changing trends in your neighbourhood and property type of choice, it’s important to work with your local REALTOR®.”

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $993,700. This represents a 4.6 per cent decrease from November 2018 and a 1.3 per cent decrease over the past six months.

Sales of detached homes in November 2019 reached 825, a 59.9 per cent increase from the 516 detached sales recorded in November 2018. The benchmark price for a detached home is $1,415,400. This represents a 5.8 per cent decrease from November 2018, a 0.5 per cent decrease over the past six months, and a 0.3 per cent increase compared to October 2019.

Sales of apartment homes reached 1,222 in November 2019, a 50.9 per cent increase compared to the 810 sales in November 2018. The benchmark price of an apartment home is $651,500. This represents a 3.8 per cent decrease from November 2018, a 1.9 per cent decrease over the past six months, and a 0.2 per cent decline compared to October 2019.

Attached home sales in November 2019 totalled 451, a 59.9 per cent increase compared to the 282 sales in November 2018. The benchmark price of an attached home is $772,800. This represents a 4.4 per cent decrease from November 2018, a 0.8 per cent decrease over the past six months, and a 0.2 per cent increase compared to October 2019.

Download the November 2019 stats package

Vancouver Real Estate Crackdown's Next Step: A Big Watchdog
Nov 14, 2019

British Columbia plans to create a single real estate regulator to better combat money-laundering in markets like Vancouver, where the government says dirty money has helped drive up housing prices.

The provincial government intends to introduce legislation late next year that would establish a joint financial-services and real estate watchdog by the spring of 2021, the Ministry of Finance said Tuesday.

The plan would bring real estate regulation -- including licensing -- under the purview of the B.C. Financial Services Authority, which currently regulates mortgage brokers, private pension plans and financial institutions. Having a single regulator for those areas will streamline investigations and enforcement, according to the government.

British Columbia has led Canada’s charge against spiraling home costs, introducing new taxes and policies to restrict foreign investment and speculation. In 2016, it ended self-regulation of the real estate industry after a scandal involving “shadow flipping,” where brokers earn multiple commissions by helping properties trade hands repeatedly before a deal closes, inflating prices. The province also is set to become the world’s first jurisdiction to expose hidden property owners next year when it creates a searchable, public registry of who controls the trusts and anonymous corporations that own land.

Vancouver, in particular, has come under scrutiny after the government revealed that casinos had been accepting millions of dollars in questionable cash from gamblers for years. The Pacific Coast city is one the continent’s most unaffordable housing markets after prices more than doubled in a decade.

Premier John Horgan’s government has partly blamed dirty money, issuing a government-funded report earlier this year that claimed more than C$7 billion ($5.3 billion) was washed through the province in a year. Questions remain about those figures, which were derived from economic modeling, not hard evidence. Horgan has launched a public inquiry to investigate the extent to which money laundering has driven up real estate in the province, and an interim report is due in November 2020.

Source: Natalie Obiko Pearson: Bloomberg News

October Stats
Nov 04, 2019

Home buyer activity increases in October

The Metro Vancouver housing market is experiencing a fall pickup in home sale activity.

 

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,858 in October 2019, a 45.4 per cent increase from the 1,966 sales recorded in October 2018, and a 22.5 per cent increase from the 2,333 homes sold in September 2019.

 

Last month’s sales were 9.8 per cent above the 10-year October sales average.

 

“Home buyers have more confidence today than we saw in the first half of the year,” says Ashley Smith, REBGV president. “With prices edging down over the last year and interest rates remaining low, hopeful home buyers are becoming more active this fall.”

 

There were 4,074 detached, attached and apartment homes newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in October 2019. This represents a 16.4 per cent decrease compared to the 4,873 homes listed in October 2018 and a 16.3 per cent decrease compared to September 2019 when 4,866 homes were listed.

 

The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 12,236, a 5.8 per cent decrease compared to October 2018 (12,984) and a nine per cent decrease compared to September 2019 (13,439).

 

For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for October 2019 is 23.4 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 17.3 per cent for detached homes, 26.2 per cent for townhomes, and 29 per cent for apartments.

 

Generally, analysts say downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.

 

“The recent uptick in home sales is moving us into a more historically typical market,” Smith said. “Both sale and listing activity is trending around our long-term averages in recent months.”

 

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $992,900. This represents a 6.4 per cent decrease from October 2018, a 1.7 per cent decrease over the past six months, and a 0.2 per cent increase compared to September 2019.

 

Sales of detached homes in October 2019 reached 938, a 47.3 per cent increase from the 637 detached sales recorded in October 2018. The benchmark price for a detached home is $1,410,500. This represents a 7.5 per cent decrease from October 2018, a 1.3 per cent decrease over the past six months, and a 0.3 per cent increase compared to September 2019.

 

Sales of apartment homes reached 1,384 in October 2019, a 40.5 per cent increase compared to the 985 sales in October 2018. The benchmark price of an apartment home is $652,500. This represents a 5.9 per cent decrease from October 2018, a 2.2 per cent decrease over the past six months, and a 0.2 per cent increase compared to September 2019.

 

Attached home sales in October 2019 totalled 536, a 55.8 per cent increase compared to the 344 sales in October 2018. The benchmark price of an attached home is $771,600. This represents a 5.8 per cent decrease from October 2018, a 0.4 per cent decrease over the past six months, and a 0.5 per cent increase compared to September 2019.

 

Download the October 2019 stats package

B.C. speculation tax personal information can be collected and disclosed: privacy commissioner
Oct 22, 2019

B.C.’s Ministry of Finance can collect, use and disclose taxpayers’ personal information under the Speculation and Vacancy Tax Act (SVTA), the province’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has ruled.

“I am satisfied that the property owner’s name, address, date of birth, social insurance number (SIN) and email address relate to and are necessary for the program of administering the tax,” adjudicator Erika Syrotuck said in her ruling.

The opposition BC Liberals and other critics have panned the tax for prying into people’s private information, namely by requiring a SIN on declaration forms. The tax required all property owners in specified areas to file a declaration. That declaration is used to determine if the tax should be paid.

And, concerns about the tax and its implications for privacy impacts led the commissioner’s office to open an inquiry after receiving complaints the ministry had exceeded its authority by collecting SINs, as well as letters of concern about collection, use and disclosure of names, addresses, dates of birth and email addresses.

All agreed it was personal information.

At issue was whether or not the tax is a program of the government as defined under B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Syrotuck found the speculation tax is a program as it is an organized implementation of a law passed by the legislature.

The ministry argued the collection of the information was needed to verify information about individuals to administer the legislation. SIN collection, the ministry said, was needed, as it is the primary identifier of Canadians and needed to calculate tax owing.

“The administrator says the absence of a SIN is valuable because it identifies that a person does not pay taxes in Canada,” Syrotuck said in her Oct. 18 decision. “Any anomalies of the SIN can alert the administrator to further investigate that declaration.”

The ministry argued email address collection was necessary to provide confirmation of declaration receipt confirmation.

The complainants, however, said the government had said more than 99% of British Columbians would not have to pay the tax yet 100% of British Columbians had to file declarations.

Complainants said collection of SINs is not allowed under federal law.

The ministry argued SINs are collected to verify other incomes and is subject to the FIPPA.

Syrotuck found more than 150 federal and provincial laws mentions SINs.

“The province is not required to get federal approval to use the SIN,” Syrotuck wrote.

She said a SIN identifies a person’s B.C. residency. She said it conforms to the speculation tax’s definition of a resident in British Columbia.

“I cannot see what other reasonable means would be available to the Ministry to verify that a person is a ‘resident of British Columbia’ for the purpose of claiming an exemption, the lower tax rate or a tax credit under the SVTA.”

Further, she said, the SVTA provisions extend to determining if a property owner is and ‘untaxed worldwide earner.’

“I do not see how the ministry could reasonably verify this without the SIN,” Syrotuck wrote.

She found the property owners’ names and addresses relate directly to the tax’s administration.

“The property owner is liable for the tax,” Syrotuck wrote. “The ministry needs to know their identity.”

Further, Syrotuck found, B.C. can share information collected with the Canada Revenue Agency under information sharing agreements.

Finance Minister Carole James said in a statement to Glacier Media the government has been confident information collected is legal and authorized under FIPPA.

“The Ministry of Finance is committed to protecting people’s personal information and privacy in everything it does,” James said. “Social insurance numbers are essential for both the administration of the speculation and vacancy tax, and in preventing tax evasion. I am pleased that the recent decision by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner confirms this.”

James told the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ September annual conference that the tax, instituted in November 2018, is increasing housing stock and generating revenue for housing creation.

The tax was created to address the ongoing affordability crisis in the province’s major urban centres where real estate has been subject to speculation and allegedly used for laundering illegal funds.

“When we formed government two years ago, we really were at the peak of a housing crisis,” James said. “The tax is working as we intended.”

Critics, however, wanted to see more data and questioned James’ claims that the results have been positive.

The NDP government announced the tax last year to free up rental properties and to put a greater tax burden on those who use social welfare systems but do not pay much income tax.

The minister said 99.8% of British Columbians are exempt from the tax. More than 1.6 million British Columbians completed declarations as it was initiated.

Those affected by it (and the taxes assessed) are in the Victoria ($3,743,000), Central Okanagan ($2,964,000), Fraser Valley ($661,000), Metro Vancouver ($50,084,000) and Nanaimo areas ($621,000).

The average assessed home value of properties subject to the tax is $1.45 million while the average assessed value of properties exempt from the tax in the taxable areas is $1.1 million, ministry data said.

And, James warned, an audit of those exempted from the tax will ensure no one is avoiding paying their legal share.

Liberal Party finance critic Shirley Bond is expected to comment on the commissioner’s decision.

Source: Jeremy Hainsworth: VIA

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