British Columbia

University grad faces $84K foreign buyers tax on Langley, B.C., townhome

'I can't go forward and also can't go back,' says University of Saskatchewan grad

Jing Li

Saskatchewan university graduate Jing Li, who moved to Canada from China, signed a contract to purchase a townhouse in Langley, B.C., 12 days before the province introduced a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers acquiring property in Metro Vancouver. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

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After completing her degree at the University of Saskatchewan last spring, Chinese student Jing Li decided to put down permanent roots in Canada.

Jing, 29, obtained a work permit, moved to the Vancouver area and made an offer on a townhouse in Langley, B.C., in mid-July.

"The beauty and kindness of B.C. inspired me to move here," she said.

Jing cobbled together a 10 per cent deposit on the $560,000 property by borrowing from her parents in China. She said they in turn borrowed money from friends and family.

But last month, 12 days after Jing signed the purchase contract, the B.C. government threw a wrench in Jing's Canadian dream when it levied a 15-per-cent-tax applied to foreign real estate buyers in the Vancouver area.

Jing is not a permanent resident in Canada, so the tax adds $84,000 to the home's cost, something she's certain she can't afford. But if she backs out of the deal, she would lose her deposit of about $56,000.

"Now, I can't go forward and also can't go back."

Her mother cried when Jing called her parents in China to tell them about the tax. They had no more money to lend her.

Jing said her father is a geologist for a mining company. Her mother stays at home.

Parents saved for Jing's future

She said her parents saved all their lives to send her to university in Canada.

After earning a master's degree last spring in public administration from the University of Saskatchewan, she moved to Burnaby, B.C., where she lives in an apartment with some university friends.

Staying in Canada was Jing's idea, and now she feels guilty.

"I think this is my fault," she said in halting English. "If I don't want to study, work and live in Canada, this disaster would not happen to my family.

"I hope there is somebody could tell me what I can do."

Bruce Copp, managing broker at Sutton Group West Coast, the real estate firm used by Jing, confirmed Jing made the offer on the Langley property in July.

Did not expect tax

When the government introduced the tax last month, it said its stated aim was to make housing more affordable for middle-class buyers.

Langley townhouse

In July, Jing paid a deposit on this townhouse in Langley. Twelve days later, the province introduced the 15 per cent property transfer tax for foreign buyers in the Vancouver area. (Jing Li)

Real estate prices in the Vancouver area have soared in recent years. Some have argued that foreign buyers have contributed to this rise, which has left many local buyers priced out of their own city.

Jing said she never would have bought the Langley property had she known a tax was on the horizon.

She said she felt entrapped by the government when it announced the tax.

"In my mind, Canada is a democratic and fair country."

Now she is not so sure.

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