Government extends ban on foreign buying of Canadian housing

The federal government is extending its ban on foreign home purchasing in Canada, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced in a release Sunday.

The rule, which was first announced in 2022, will now be extended until the beginning of 2027. It bans foreign nationals and commercial enterprises from buying residential property in Canada, with exceptions for some international students, refugee claimants and temporary workers.

“By extending the foreign buyer ban, we will ensure houses are used as homes for Canadian families to live in and do not become a speculative financial asset class,” Freeland said in the statement Sunday.

Experts have questioned whether the ban is having a significant effect on housing affordability in Canada, given the relatively small share of the overall housing market owned by non-Canadians. In 2020, for example, the share of the market owned by non-residents in some provinces measured ranged from two to six per cent.

In 2021, in B.C., only around 1.1. per cent of home sales included a foreign buyer.

There are also further exemptions to the home buying rules that allow for the purchase of buildings with four or more residences, or in some less populated areas.

Brendon Ogmundson, the chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, told CBC News late last year that “the foreign buyer ban was more political than economic policy or housing policy.”

Some provinces in Canada already had foreign home buyers taxes in place, while Toronto recently proposed a municipal levy on non-Canadian residential purchases.

Housing has become a major political flashpoint as Canadians deal with a severe affordability crisis. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) says 3.5 million additional homes on top of expected growth need to be built by 2030 to reach affordability.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has made the housing crunch a key part of his political critique of the governing Liberals, saying the country has descended into “housing hell.”

He’s proposed a series of measures to help boost housing starts, including a series of incentives to reward municipalities that meet ambitious housing targets with federal dollars, and punish those that don’t.

The federal government has responded to the crisis with a number of measures, including a series of negotiations with major cities, to tie federal money in the Housing Accelerator Fund to zoning reform and other pro-building policy changes at the municipal level.