Ontario 'not prepared' to wait for data before implementing foreign buyers tax: minister

Ontario has decided to implement a 15 per cent "non-resident speculation" tax on foreign buyers even though the data on how it will affect the housing market is still being collected, says the provincial housing minister.

Chris Ballard says data still being collected on impact of 'non-resident speculation' tax

Minister Chris Ballard says the Ontario government was not prepared to wait for data to be collected before taking action on the housing market. (Canadian Press)

The Ontario government is not going to wait for data on the impact of its 15 per cent "non-resident speculation" tax before implementing it to help tame the housing market, says the provincial housing minister.

Chris Ballard told Metro Morning that data on the tax, part of a package of measures designed to make the housing market more predictable for Ontario residents, is still being collected. The Ontario government announced its housing plan on Thursday.

The plan includes a 15 per cent tax on home purchases, in Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe, by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada and by foreign corporations.

"We are not prepared to sit for the next one or two years waiting for the data to come in," Ballard said Friday. 
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said new measures are needed to cool rents and home prices which are rising far faster than people's paycheques. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

"We are working closely with the federal government, we are working closely with organizations in Ontario, to continue to collect the data. The decisions we are making, the legislation and regulations we are putting forward, are based on the best data we have at hand. We are going to continue to collect data.

"As the premier said yesterday, we will continue to monitor the marketplace and if we have to tweak our legislation going down the road, we will."

Ballard said the province talked to experts, including economists, before drafting its housing plan and that collecting evidence on how it will work is a "key" part of its measures.

Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Progressive Conservative housing critic, said Thursday the government has refused to supply data to back up its plan for a foreign buyers tax.

"All these things, we should be working much harder on collecting data. You can't fix a problem until you know what's causing the problem. When it was asked three times by the media, what numbers they used, there were no answers," Hardeman said. 
Once it is approved by the legislature, the 'non-resident speculation' tax will take effect on April 21, 2017. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

According to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the tax would not apply to new immigrants who plan to live here, but are instead aimed at speculators who will "never set foot in Ontario." 

Wynne announced 16 measures on Thursday that the province says will increase supply, protect renters and make finding a place to live easier and more affordable.

At a news conference on Thursday, Wynne refused to say what she wants to happen to house prices as a result of the housing plan, despite repeated questions from reporters.

The proposed tax would apply to transfers of land that contain at least one and not more than six single-family residences, including semi-detached homes, town homes and condos. It would not apply to transfers of other types of land including multi-residential rental apartment buildings, agricultural land or commercial/industrial land. 
The' non-resident speculation' tax would not apply to new immigrants who plan to live here, but are instead aimed at speculators who will 'never set foot in Ontario.'

A rebate would be available for those who later become citizens or permanent residents, as a well as foreign nationals working in Ontario and international students.

​The province said the tax will be applied in addition to the land transfer tax. Once it is approved by the legislature, it will take effect on April 21, 2017. Binding agreements of purchase and sale signed on or before April 20, 2017 are not subject to the tax.

The tax will be applied in the following areas: Brant, Dufferin, Durham, Haldimand, Halton, Hamilton, Kawartha Lakes, Niagara, Northumberland, Peel, Peterborough, Simcoe, Toronto, Waterloo, Wellington and York.

With files from Metro Morning