British Columbia

New Zealand minister defends foreign ownership ban as B.C. Greens call for similar policy

The leader of the B.C. Green Party announced earlier this week it’s time the province followed New Zealand's example and restricted foreign real estate ownership.

Andrew Weaver said earlier this week B.C. should restrict foreign ownership on real estate

There are similarities between Vancouver's housing market and that of some cities in New Zealand, which recently banned foreign ownership of real estate. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The leader of the B.C. Green Party announced earlier this week it's time the province followed New Zealand's example and restricted foreign real estate ownership.

On Jan. 1, New Zealand limited the purchase of existing homes to New Zealanders, Australians and permanent residents , arguing foreign speculation was distorting the real estate market.

David Parker, New Zealand's Minister of Trade and Export Growth, introduced the bill in December.

"The underlying point for us is that we think the New Zealand market for homes should be for people who live in them," he told CBC Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

The ban doesn't apply to Australians because of previous agreements and because New Zealanders are exempt from home ownership restrictions there.

Under the new rules, non-residents can buy undeveloped land for the purpose of building property, but it then has to be sold to a resident.

Foreign ownership in Vancouver

In the past few years, Parker said, money was flowing in from overseas — particularly from mainland China — and the property market in cities like Auckland was red hot.

He said it's difficult to know exactly to what extent the market was being influenced by foreign buyers or the number of homes they owned but that didn't stop the policy from being implemented.

In Vancouver, non-Canadian residents are estimated to own less than five per cent of properties.

Some argue, however, the number is actually much higher and masked behind shell companies, nominees and trusts,

In nearly half of Vancouver's 100 most expensive property deals, the beneficial owners are unknown, according to a 2016 report by Transparency International Canada.

B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver suggests the provincial government mimic New Zealand's ban on foreign real estate buyers. (CBC)

Accusations of racism

Parker is adamant the foreign ownership ban is fair and dismissed accusations of racism.

"I used to oppose America, Canadian or French purchases of land and was never accused of racism but when other ethnicities were involved and I raised the same issue, I was accused of xenophobia," Parker said.

Andrew Weaver, the leader of the B.C. Green Party, said he plans to push the issue forward.

"This is not about what passport you own, it's about where you live," Weaver told CBC in an earlier interview. "We don't have to rediscover the wheel because they are already doing it in New Zealand."

With files from The Early Edition and On The Coast.

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