A majority of Ontario voters would be fine with slapping an extra tax on real estate purchases made by foreign buyers in the Greater Toronto Area's hot housing market, according to a new poll.
The Forum Research survey, provided exclusively to QP Briefing, suggests 61 per cent of voters would support a foreign buyers’ tax, 20 per cent would oppose it and 19 per cent didn’t know.
“Support for a foreign buyer’s tax in the GTA is broad and spans many different demographic categories,” said Forum Research president Dr. Lorne Bozinoff in a release. “It’s clear many are feeling the heat of the red-hot GTA housing market and are looking for any kind of relief.”
Support for a foreign buyers’ tax in the poll was strong in the 416 and 905 regions of the province. Of those surveyed, 61 per cent of Torontonians and 68 per cent of GTA residents backed the tax. Respondents making between $40,000 and $60,000 and $60,000 and $80,000 were also strong supporters, at 69 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively. The poll did not ask about other alternatives.
Opposition to the tax was strongest in northeastern Ontario and among voters making $20,000 or less a year.
The survey results come as Ontario’s Liberal government is putting together a “package” of housing affordability measures aimed at taming the GTA real estate market and reforming rent controls. Finance Minister Charles Sousa has said he wants to include those plans in his upcoming budget, which is expected to arrive later this month.
In British Columbia, foreign nationals and corporations must pay a 15-per-cent additional tax on real estate purchases in the Vancouver area. The levy was brought in by B.C.’s Liberal government in the face of growing public pressure over skyrocketing real estate prices. Home sales have fallen off since the tax was instituted.
In Ontario, meanwhile, real estate prices shot up by 24.5 per cent from February 2016 to Feb. 2017, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. In the Toronto area, home prices increased by 27.8 per cent, to an average price of $875,983.
Sousa has said the government is considering a number of measures to cool the housing market, including a foreign buyers’ tax, which the Liberals had previously ruled out.
But there are questions about the impact foreign buyers are actually having on the housing market. The Toronto Real Estate Board reported that foreign buyers were only involved in about 5 per cent of transactions in the GTA last year.
Sousa has said the government is trying to collect as much data as possible so as to avoid "unforeseen" mistakes. He had also reached out to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau prior to the release of the federal budget last month, asking for Ottawa to hike the capital gains tax on real estate speculators. That request wasn't acted on, and now Sousa and Premier Kathleen Wynne are eyeing ways to help Ontarians on both the supply and demand ends of the housing market.
Forum contacted 884 voters via phone for the poll, which was conducted from March 28 to March 30. The poll’s margin of error is 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.