British Columbia

Drop B.C. HST on new homes now, realtors say

Realtors says the HST is hurting new-home sales and are asking the BC government to remove it immediately.

Realtors are asking the B.C. government to remove the provincial portion of the HST on new homes immediately.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says hundreds of newly built  condos are sitting vacant while buyers wait for the tax to be scrapped, and are requesting the seven-per-cent provincial portion of the HST be dropped as quickly as possible.

Builders and buyers alike know the HST on new homes will be lifted sometime over the next 17 months, following the success of the anti-HST referendum. But nobody’s sure when it will happen.

"Prospective new home buyers are reluctantly sitting on the sidelines," Harriet Permut, of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, told the B.C. legislature's finance committee Friday.

Permut said uncertainty over the HST can have an impact throughout the economy, as it means a decline in housing starts and fewer jobs in construction.

"Our colleagues at the Urban Development Institute say that there are over a thousand units in our board area alone, apartment units, that are not being brought onto the market, and they're waiting for the HST to be resolved," Permit said.

Statistics Canada noted this week that the selling price of new homes in Metro Vancouver dropped in August, another sign, developers believe, of lingering uncertainty.

B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon issued a statement Friday, saying the government, "is committed to make the transition back to the PST plus GST system as responsibly and quickly as we possibly can."

Falcon would not commit to an earlier transition for some sectors, but said the government does welcome input from the real estate and housing industries and will take concerns about the transition period and its impact on the housing sector into consideration.

Falcon also said that there are other factors that might influence people's decisions to buy homes besides the HST, including, "a struggling global economy."

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies