Enhance financial stability for home-buyers and renters
Measures to support British Columbians in dealing with the impacts of this crisis should be effective and targeted at those in the greatest need, while avoiding adverse consequences, such as inflationary pressures on rents and property prices.
The BC HOME partnership is an irresponsible policy introduced by the previous government. This policy, which provides first time home-buyers with loans for their down payments, encourages British Columbians to take on more debt than they can afford in order to get into the real estate market. This is a particularly reckless incentive when interest rates are rising. Furthermore, it further inflates demand for our real estate, which simply adds to the problem. Government should eliminate this loan program.
The NDP campaigned on a universal $400 rebate, to go to all renter households. This policy is an inefficient way to spend government resources. It does not provide enough support for those who really need it, while it gives money to those with high incomes.
Instead, government should target financial assistance programs to those who need it most. For example, it should target those who may be at the edge of homelessness due to rising rents and utility costs, or those who are low income and are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of income on rent. Existing programs, like Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER), the Rental Assistance Program (RAP), and the income assistance shelter allowance, are good targets for expanded eligibility and increased supports. Building on existing programs will also allow smoother integration with the recently-announced Canada Housing Benefit rent supplement for low-income tenants that could begin in 2020.
Improve transparency and data
As the housing crisis has escalated, effective government action, at all levels, has been undermined by a lack of data about the state of the market and the drivers of the crisis. Improving data and transparency are critical to better understanding the crisis and enabling targeted and effective policy responses.
Furthermore, tax evasion and money laundering have become all too commonplace, as some investors shield their identities and avoid paying their fair share of taxes in BC. The use of shell companies, trusts, and proxy ownership structures have obscured who really owns property here, undermining efforts at data gathering and analysis and allowing for large-scale tax evasion. A Transparency International Report found that governments can’t identify the owners of almost half of Metro Vancouver’s most expensive homes. Government must collect better data and close loopholes that allow buyers keep their identities and locations a secret. Existing regulations and laws must be followed, and government must ensure that officials tasked with compliance and enforcement have the tools needed to do their job.
- Eliminate the ability of buyers to hide their identities through shell companies, numbered companies, and trusts;
- Improve transparency in the land title registry and corporate registry by requiring the disclosure of beneficial ownership;
- Work with the Canada Revenue Agency to map land titles to income tax paid;
- Require developers to release data regarding buyers and sellers of pre-sales, to protect against tax evasion; and
- Make existing and new data more regularly and freely accessible to researchers and the public.