Wow, tough topic, and tough call.
And if the online comments weren’t completely anonymous, perhaps people wouldn’t be putting their brutally honest thoughts and feelings into writing!
There’s an online petition circling at www.change.org that calls for B.C. Premier, Christy Clark, and Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson, to introduce laws to curb foreign investment in Vancouver’s residential real estate market.
Is it up to the Province? The City? Or the Canadian government? Or is this “change” something we shouldn’t be contemplating at all?
Are you a sports fan?
Do you follow hockey?
I’m a sports fan, but to be perfectly honest, I follow the business of hockey more than I follow the sport, at least in recent years.
So I was fascinated to see THIS article last week, about the mess the Tampa Bay Lightning are making.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are attempting to restrict ticket sales for their playoff games against the Montreal Canadiens to “Lightning fans” only. As a result, you can only buy tickets through Ticketmaster if you have a valid Florida address.
Check out the message below:
Forget, just for a moment, how stupid this is, given it actually IS physically possible to be a fan of a team, without living in the state.
My wife and I are huge New Orleans Saints fans, and we’ve been to games both in New Orleans, and in cities where they visit. And we were actually (gasp!) allowed to purchase tickets, even though we don’t live in Louisiana.
But aside from the geographic mistake that the Tampa Bay brass have made here, do you think it’s fair to restrict sales to only fans of the team?
Is it anti-competitive?
Is it discriminatory?
You could argue it is both, with ease.
Even worse than the decision to restrict ticket sales to Florida residents, however, is the decision to restrict what fans can wear to the game!
Fans have been encouraged to wear “a shirt of neutral colour,” or risk being asked to remove their clothing (presumably Montreal Canadiens jerseys), or being asked to leave the building.
Montreal fans have also been banned from certain areas of the building.
The article linked above doesn’t mention it, but I’ve seen it printed in other media that some fans were even asked not to cheer for the Canadiens. There was apparently a box suite rented by some Montreal fans, and they were “too loud.”
Is this right?
Is this just?
Or is this just commerce in 2015?
Downtown Toronto nightclubs have “dress codes” which, of course, they refer to as “style guidelines,” which allows them to restrict people from gaining access if they’re not wearing the right type of shoes, or pants.
Nightclubs can also restrict the age of patrons as well.
Back in my day, it was guys that had to be over 21, or sometimes 25, to gain access to the “mature” scene.
Today, it’s girls that are being restricted, since there are apparently too many 19-year-old girls busing in from Brampton and Richmond Hill, trying to meet up with Bay Street dudes. Not my words – this is what somebody told me last week!
So is it fair to restrict ticket sales at sporting events to certain people, and insist they dress a certain way?
Well, I guess if the arena is selling out, then they can do whatever they want.
But at some point, it’s discriminatory, is it not?
What if Tampa Bay management said, “We only want fans with Florida addresses, but in ‘certain’ neighbourhoods,” perhaps referring to a certain demographic – whether that’s race, religion, average income, or all of the above. That would be discriminatory, would it not?
Is it their right to pick and choose?
Should they be allowed to place restrictions on who purchases their goods and services?
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a privately-owned company, but what if a wing of government in our country were to restrict who can purchase certain goods and services?
It wouldn’t be anything new, that’s for sure.
There are all kinds of quotas, tariffs, and import restrictions in our country.
As I’m writing this blog, I’m listening to 102.1 FM, and wondering why so much of this music is crap. But alas, the CRTC mandates that a certain amount of content on TV and on the radio must be Canadian…
So is it reasonable, and is it not discriminatory, to suggest that the Province of British Columbia should restrict the amount of foreigners who can purchase real estate?
www.change.org is a petition website, and on it you’ll find a petition about this very subject – restricting foreign ownership in Vancouver.
HERE is the link to the petition, which now has 17,182 signatures since it was first published on April 5th, 2015.
The petition’s mandate is as follows:
“This petition is about protecting current Canadian citizens—including recent immigrants—from the tsunami of international capital that is hitting Greater Vancouver’s residential real estate market, driving up prices, and lowering our standard of living as a result. The race or national origin of the investors who are purchasing real estate is irrelevant, and moreover, these investors have done nothing wrong—they are behaving in a financially rational manner within the rules that our government has set for them, and I wish them all the best. The onus to shape Canadian and British Columbian law is on us, not them.”
I find this absolutely fascinating.
And this petition has some legs, too! Almost 18,000 signatures, and while I know there are 2.4 Million residents in the greater Vancouver area, and in actual fact – any of the 7 Billion people on planet earth can sign this petition, 18,000 is not bad in five weeks.
But does this petition have merit?
“Protecting citizens,” the petition reads.
Protect them from what?
From massive tax-free, capital gains on primary residences that have increased in value significantly in the past decade?
Sure, that’s for folks that own real estate, and perhaps those who might be cynical to this petition.
But for frustrated non-owners of real estate, to blame foreign ownership is a bit of a stretch.
Foreign ownership is one reason why prices have risen, but not the reason.
Reading that mandate over and over, I really don’t see any reason for the petition, other than rising prices. They talk about the “decreased standard of living,” which really can’t be proven other than anecdotally, but what does this actually refer to?
I would imagine the petitioner ascertains that somebody paying more for their mortgage pays less for food, clothing, and the basic necessities of life.
But that’s really the only way you can link “decreased standard of living” to the increase in foreign-owned properties.
Otherwise, wouldn’t the real estate boom have helped the standard of living?
More jobs means more money for Vancouverites.
More taxable properties means more revenue to spend on public infrastructure.
It would seem to me that the only other “decreased standard of living” could be, say, less sunlight, due to tall condominiums.
In any event, the questions we should be asking are twofold:
1) Does Canada or British Columbia “need” to restrict foreign ownership? If so, why? What would be the result, and what is the benefit to residents of B.C.?
2) Would either level of government be within their right to restrict foreign ownership?
The first question is one we can debate all day.
If the Province decided that the real estate market needed to be “cooled off,” then they could act accordingly. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Consider that since 2008, the Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) has taken massive steps to cool the Canadian real estate market, with some of the following policies:
-reducing maximum amortization from 40-years, down to 35, then 30, now 25
-raising minimum down payment to 5%, from what was actually more than 0% (with cash back financing)
-mandating minimum 20% down payment on any property other than a primary residence
-no longer ensuring mortgages over $1,000,000, meaning minimum down payment is now 20%
And that’s just to name a few.
The only reason why the Canadian or Provincial government would restrict foreign ownership, from what I can see, would be to stop the influx of money, and thus cool the market.
Well, I suppose you could argue that there’s another reason: we just don’t want foreigners owning “our” properties.
That’s not very “Canada-like” of us, however, and I don’t see that ever happening.
So as for the second question, as to whether or not Canada or British Columbia could pull this off, well as the petition duly notes, there are countries that are doing this.
Australia restricts the purchase of real estate by foreigners, and they’re quite open about the reasoning! They even have a website dedicated to it, HERE.
The entire reasoning behind the restriction is that the government wants to create new supply and avoid speculation (I’m assuming you avoid speculation to avoid rapid price increases, but they don’t mention that).
Have a look at some excerpts:
The Australian Government believes that foreign investment in the housing sector should increase the supply of homes, and should not be speculative in nature. So the policy is designed to channel foreign investment into increasing the supply of new housing.
Foreigners can normally get approval to buy vacant land — as long as they start continuous construction within 12 months.
Foreigners can normally get approval to buy existing residences for redevelopment — as long as this will increase the supply of housing. As well, the house must remain unoccupied during redevelopment. Foreigners can normally get approval to buy units, townhouses, and house/land packages in a new development.
Because Australia’s foreign investment policy is designed to increase the supply of new housing, foreigners cannot normally get approval to buy houses, flats or units which have been occupied (ie. anything pre-owned).
The exceptions to this rule are:
1) Foreign nationals temporarily resident in Australia for more than 12 months, who are buying a home here.
2) Foreign companies buying a home for their senior executives who will be living in Australia for more than 12 months.
This is amazing.
So the government has restricted the purchase of real estate by non-residents to only that which will create new supply, and thus create jobs at the same time via new construction and renovation.
Are they on to something here?
Maybe they know more than just rugby, kangaroos, and really good looking blond guys with chiseled abs who smell like surfboard wax and steal our women with their intoxicating accents…
Australia may have beat us into World War II by a paltry seven days (September 3rd, 1939 vs. September 10th – just in case this is on Jeopardy one day), but it also seems as though they’ve beat us to the punch in dealing with what some people, evidenced by that online petition, feel is also a threat.
Foreign ownership of real estate in Canada has helped our economy tremendously in the last twenty years, and you have to wonder if that petition is borne of sour grapes, or good ideas.
I’m interested to know what my readers think…
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