Preliminary data collected by the B.C. government on foreign investment in the province's sizzling real estate market shows that in Metro Vancouver five per cent of all real estate purchases were made by foreign buyers, almost all of them Chinese nationals.
But certain areas showed a much higher level of foreign involvement in the market.
In Richmond, foreign nationals made up 14 per cent of all buyers, spending $61 million out of the $371 million worth of purchases. In Burnaby foreign nationals accounted for 11 per cent of all purchases.
Province-wide foreign buyers made up about three per cent of the 10,000 transactions during the three-week period in which the government has been collecting numbers.
The figures also show that the average investment by a foreign national is $1.157 million, far more than the $735,000 spent on average by Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the newly collected figures represent the first time the province has seen any real data behind speculation that foreign money is driving up real estate prices.
"It's certainly a presence," he told reporters. "It's real, it is actual and it is factual."
De Jong cautioned that the data is very preliminary, containing only the information for 20 days. But as far as it goes, he said, it is the most accurate data the government has on the issue of foreign ownership.
The new rules, which came into place on June 10, force buyers to disclose whether or not they are Canadian citizens or permanent residents when they fill out a property transfer tax form for the purchase of a home. Those who are neither are asked to disclose their country of citizenship.
Foreign buyers, especially those from China, have been singled out as the main factor driving soaring Lower Mainland real estate prices.
But NDP housing critic David Eby says just asking a buyer to check a foreign owner box on a form is a flawed method of collecting data, and one that doesn't address the full scope of what's happening in the bigger picture.
"The issue isn't one of citizenship, said Eby. "There are a lot of people who have permanent residency who are not paying taxes in B.C., they are paying it somewhere else."
The NDP wants a two per cent tax on assessed home values for those who don't pay income tax in Canada.
B.C. Housing Market Report
B.C. Housing Market Report (PDF KB)
B.C. Housing Market Report (Text KB)
With files from Richard Zussman