Christy Clarks years of denial cost Metro Vancouver home buyers $601K in just two years

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John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader of the B.C. New Democrats

Victoria: For more than two years, Christy Clark denied that escalating home prices were a problem in Metro Vancouver’s housing market, and did absolutely nothing to help curb them.

During those two years – beginning when the B.C. Liberals first rejected the New Democrat call to action on the crisis and ending when they finally admitted something needed to be done – the benchmark price of a home in Metro Vancouver skyrocketed by $601,600, pricing an entire generation of young B.C. families out of their own housing market.

Today, everyone from families looking to buy a detached house to university students looking to rent a studio apartment are paying a steep price for the premier’s years of flat denial and total inaction.

New Democrats and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce first raised the alarm about foreign speculators pricing locals out of the housing market in 2014, when the benchmark price for a detached home in Greater Vancouver was $976,700. The Clark government’s response was swift, but empty: they refused to do anything.

Then the benchmark price climbed past $1 million at the very beginning of 2015, and was increasing even faster in May 2015, when Premier Clark’s housing minister told people that he thought prices were still “reasonable,” and dismissed affordability as an issue.

In June 2015, Christy Clark continued to deny that there was a problem for B.C. families trying to find an affordable home, and showed how out of touch she was by saying that people unable to afford a home in the Lower Mainland should think about moving to Fort St. John.

It wasn’t until July 2016, when the benchmark price had climbed to $1,578,300, that the premier finally admitted that people were facing a crisis in affordability and imposed a sudden tax on foreign buyers.

These days, Christy Clark believes she and her government deserve a pat on the back for their punitive foreign buyers tax, which has thrown the market into chaos, and failed to make a dent in the price of anything but luxury homes.

But she fails to mention the $601K premium she’s effectively levied on local families across the region through her failure of leadership.

If the premier listened back in 2014 to those who were frantically sounding the alarm about ballooning home prices and speculation in the market, she could have curtailed the changes we’ve seen in the past two years.

Instead of listening to the people who worried about young families being driven out of the region, she listened to donors who wanted to continue to cash in on home price escalations.

Governing is about choices, and these are the choices that the B.C. Liberals make again and again; choices that put people last.

The problems we’re seeing today are going to take years to fix. And we’re not going to fix them through taxes that grab headlines, but fail to get at the root of the problem: speculative investment.

New Democrats know it doesn’t matter where speculative investors in our housing markets come from. What matters is the impact of huge amounts of foreign capital flowing into one region, distorting prices until they are well beyond the means of people who live and work there.

That’s why the solution we proposed would have made sure that, year after year, those who are using B.C. homes purely as safety deposit boxes to store their wealth have to pay a premium.

It just makes sense. When you live and work in this region, you pay income taxes that help support your communities. Those who don’t live and work in the province, but wish to benefit from owning a home here, should contribute their fair share, too.

The B.C. Liberal foreign buyers tax, however, doesn’t distinguish between families hoping to build a life in Metro Vancouver and speculative investors who buy and flip property sight unseen. Their tax doesn’t make any allowances, either, for professionals recruited to this province because they have skills that companies in our province need.

Rather than an annual tax that only impacts speculators, as we proposed, the B.C. Liberals have instituted a steep one-time tax on anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident. It’s unwelcoming, it’s punitive, and when it comes to lowering prices in the region, it isn’t working.

The fact that our premier continues to pat herself on the back for her delayed and chaotic interventions just shows how detached she is from real life in Metro Vancouver.

Here, people who wish to buy a home in the region will face one Christy Clark tax or another – they’ll pay a $601,600 premium because of her failure of leadership, and if they’re new to the country, they’ll also pay an extra 15 per cent because of her shortsighted choices.

But wherever you’re from, whether you’re buying or renting, if you are looking for a place to live in Metro Vancouver, one thing is certain: you will pay more, because Christy Clark failed to act.