Photo: James Paolo/Flickr
A call to restrict foreign investment in GTA real estate has gained popularity on internet petition site change.org. As of publication, 10,005 supporters have signed the petition which asks Brad Duguid, the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, to consider enacting new regulations limiting who can buy existing GTA homes.
The petition was posted to the site three weeks ago by Shaan Brach of Richmond Hill, though it picked up considerable steam Monday, with 1,000 new signatures added in the span of 10 hours.
The authors say the petition is “meant to protect current Canadian citizens, including recent immigrants, from the overwhelming amount of foreign investment taking over the GTA’s residential real estate market. This wealthy foreign investment strategy is driving up prices, and lowering our standard of living as a result, as it is making it impossible for Canadians to buy homes in their own country.”
There are numerous references to the sky-high prices in the Vancouver housing market, recently ranked the second most unaffordable housing market in the world, and long seen as a hot spot for foreign investment.
The petition points to a Toronto Star article that estimates 50 per cent of condo real estate in Vancouver and Toronto is foreign-owned and 15 per cent of Toronto condos are unoccupied, “meaning they are solely for investing.”
However, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released a rental market survey in December 2014 that suggested foreign investment makes up 2.4 per cent of the Toronto condo market and 2.3 per cent of the Vancouver. Currently, there is no data available tracking the rate of foreign ownership of real estate in Canada so estimates vary.
The letter to the minister asks him to consider new rules similar to those established in Australia in 2010, that bar foreigners from buying existing residences in the country. However, they are allowed to buy new construction homes, “meaning the country’s real estate market grows, while pricing stays the same because more real estate will become available.”
The petition points to an Australian study from the Foreign Investment Review Board in which Canada is ranked third in most attractive real estate markets for investors from China.
Though there are several references to investors in China, the writer “would like to emphasize that our concern is not at all related to the race or national origin of foreign real estate investors. Moreover, we want to highlight that these investors have done nothing wrong: they are simply doing what is in their best interest, and they are doing so within the rules that our government has established.”
Interestingly, a number of the signatories aren’t even located within the GTA, with some posting their locations as Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and a number of small towns across the country.
Foreign investment remains a controversial topic in Canada. A similar petition posted to change.org two months ago called for foreign investment restrictions in the Greater Vancouver Region. Since then, it received 24,940 signatures at the time of publication.