Non-residents of Canada own less than five per cent of the housing in the Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver areas, according to data released today by Statistics Canada.

In a joint project with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the data agency weighed into the debate over foreign ownership in the housing market with new numbers.

The subject has been in focus this year as policymakers have begun to grapple with what sort of impact, if any, non-Canadians residents are having on the housing market. Some say a flurry of interest from foreigners is driving up prices, while others suggest the problem is not widespread and focused on small segments of the market.

The two markets examined in the report have implemented rules to crack down on foreign buyers, with Vancouver and then Toronto implementing their version of a foreign buyers tax in the past two years.

For the purposes of the report released Tuesday, Statistics Canada might include Canadian citizens in what it calls "non-residents." To the agency, a non-resident is either a Canadian citizen who no longer lives in the country (but still owns real estate) or a non-citizen who owns property in Canada without living in the country as a primary residence.

The numbers show that whatever impact non-residents are having on the market, it is relatively small. Non-residents owned 3.4 per cent of all residential properties in the Toronto area and 4.8 per cent in Vancouver.

foreign ownership board 2

(Natalie Holdway/CBC)

It's even smaller for the much-coveted single detached home, where non-residents own 2.1 per cent of them in Toronto and just 3.2 per cent in Vancouver.

The number jumps a bit in the downtown areas of both cities however. In Vancouver, non-resident ownership makes up 7.6 per cent in the city itself. That's about one out of every 13 homes. In downtown Toronto, the ratio jumps to 4.8 per cent — almost one in 20.

While the overall numbers are relatively low, it's a different story in condominiums, as non-residents own a larger chunk of that market. Nearly eight per cent of the condos in the Greater Vancouver area are owned by non-residents. In Toronto, the figure is slightly lower, but still north of seven per cent.

On average, condominiums owned by non-residents are worth 30 per cent more than other ones, which suggests that higher-end dwellings are preferred by non-residents.

The average condo owned by a non-resident in downtown Vancouver was worth $930,600. In downtown Toronto, the average was $439,000.

CMHC has been tracking foreign ownership for a few years via a survey of owners, but the 2017 figures mark the first time Statistics Canada has weighed in on the same topic via a different set of numbers, culled from tax filings and other property assessment and title data.

While the two sets of numbers are slightly different CMHC notes that foreign buyer crackdowns in Toronto and Vancouver have had at least one unexpected impact, in that they appear to be shifting some demand to Montreal.

condo board 1

Non-residents owned 1.1 per cent of condos in the Greater Montreal area last year. This year, that percentage jumped to 1.7 per cent — still low, but an increase off more than 54 per cent in a year.

"The lack of growth in Toronto and Vancouver, combined with the increases in Montreal, indicate the possibility of a shift from these centres after the introduction of foreign buyers taxes in Ontario and British Columbia," said Bob Dugan, CMHC's chief economist Bob Dugan.

CMHC looked at non-resident ownership levels in 17 of Canada's biggest cities, and in the vast majority of them, the percentages were below one per cent.