• CMHC tackles foreign ownership in Canada’s housing market for first time
    Garry Marr | December 16, 2014 | Last Updated: Dec 16 11:09 AM ET

    CMHC recognizes that there is demand to fill information gaps with respect to Canada’s housing markets,” the Crown corporation said in a release Tuesday. Above, a water taxi decorated with a Canadian flag on the roof travels on False Creek as boats are moored in a marina near Yaletown condo towers in Vancouver, B.C.
    Some pockets of the country now have as much as 6.9% of condominium apartments foreign-owned, according to a survey from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. on the rental market.

    It’s the first time the contentious issue of foreign ownership has been tackled by the Crown corporation, which earlier this year was criticized for an extensive report on the Toronto and Vancouver condo markets which did not address the issue.

    “CMHC recognizes that there is demand to fill information gaps with respect to Canada’s housing markets. To address this need CMHC has, for the first time, asked property managers to provide information on the total number of condominium apartment units owned by people whose permanent residence is outside of Canada as part of its survey,” the Crown corporation said in a release.

    While Vancouver has been a flashpoint for the discussion, the survey found that downtown Montreal and Nun’s Island had a foreign ownership rate of 6.9% to lead the country. Vancouver’s Burrard Peninsula had 5.8% penetration, while in Toronto’s core it was 4.3%.

    “With respect to location, the city core in Canada’s largest rental areas, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, experienced larger foreign condominium ownership,” said CMHC.

    Overall, though, the condominium ownership rate in the 11 markets surveyed by CMHC did not go above the 2.4% for Toronto as a whole.

    Toronto led the 11 markets surveyed by CMHC for foreign investment but Vancouver was not far behind with 2.3% of units held by residents. After those markets, Montreal was at 1.5%; Victoria at 1.1%; Ottawa at 0.7%; Quebec City at 0.6%; Saskatoon at 0.3%; Calgary at 0.2%; and Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg at 0.1%.

    The issue of foreign ownership in the housing market has been a contentious issue in Canadian real estate and Evan Siddall, the president of CMHC, has acknowledged there is “data gap” that he wants the Crown corporation to plug.

    In an interview with the Financial Post in October, Mr. Siddall said the research arm of CMHC was also tackling the foreign ownership issue and looking for more data from the banks.

    “We are looking at information that lenders have because lenders have clients,” said Mr. Siddall. “The problem is people buy through nominees and corporations and they are allowed to do that. We need to look for ways to pierce that. The way we do that with Canadians is we phone. We can’t phone people in Singapore or Hong Kong, we don’t know who to call. We need to try and look through to the extent we are legally allowed to do so and that we are not accessing privacy information.”

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