Feds target housing market speculators

Tighter mortgage rules, crackdown on capital gains exemption abuse expected to help tame wild real estate market




The federal government will make it tougher for speculators to profit tax-free from Canadian real estate investments, while further tightening mortgage qualification rules to help avoid excessive risk in the housing market.

The changes announced Monday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau are expected to put further downward pressure on hot housing markets such as Vancouver and Toronto.

Homes sold from now on won’t be eligible for the principal residence exemption from capital gains tax  if the seller wasn’t a resident of Canada in the year they bought the property.

Experts say that should bar foreign investors from using the capital gain exemption and also hit some Canadian citizens who have been abusing the exemption to use real estate as a tax-free investment.

The Canada Revenue Agency will now require taxpayers to report the sale of homes for which they are claiming the principal residence exemption.

NDP housing critic David Eby predicted the federal rule change could have more effect even than the B.C. government’s recent imposition of a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax on residential real estate sales in Metro Vancouver.

“I think there’s a great deal of domestic speculation in the housing market that is totally unaddressed by the foreign buyer tax,” Eby said.

“The reason people are putting money into real estate instead of shares of a company is because they can do so capital gains free.”

He suggested that with CRA auditors poised to take a harder look at potentially phony claims of the exemption, more real estate investors may shift to different investments.

Eby has been among the critics who have flagged cases of homemakers and students buying multi-million-dollar Vancouver-area homes with minimal to no declared annual income.

When those individuals sell a million-dollar home and avoid paying tax on a $300,000 capital gain, he suggested, they’ll be prime targets for “lifestyle audits” by the CRA.

The new disclosure requirement should also help the CRA unravel cases where multiple family members – mother, father and kids – are each declaring different principal residences to dodge capital gains despite a rule that a family could only declare one such property exempt.

Ottawa also unveiled a tightening of rules on mortgage insurance eligibility and a revised mortgage rate stress test that will be applied to all insured mortgages.

The revised stress test means more home buyers will have to have sufficient income to meet their mortgage payments not based on the mortgage rate a bank is offering them but based on the Bank of Canada’s posted rate for fixed five-year terms.

“That can be a two per cent difference in what you qualify for,” said UBC associate economics professor Tom Davidoff, who predicted it will make it considerably harder for buyers who are stretching to afford the biggest payment and mortgage they can get.

“I think the lower end of the market is going to feel it the most.”

B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman praised the federal measures.

“They are welcome steps that may help provide further fairness and stability in the market for home-buyers,” Coleman said.

Just Posted

Highland Secondary student wins Horatio Alger scholarship

Jenna Leggett grew up on Read Island where there was no electricity and no roads to her home

Next Science Pub explores sex, evolution and nature’s strangest dating scenes

The Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS) is presenting the next event in… Continue reading

Sprinkler system bursts at Florence Filberg Centre

Witnesses say water was pouring down from the building’s deck

Best of World Community Film Fest screens Tuesday

The votes are in from the recent World Community Film Festival and… Continue reading

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

The can’t decide the pipeline’s fate until a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read