CMHC’s foreign ownership stats lacking, but a step in the right direction

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There are issues with CMHC’s methodology in calculating foreign ownership, according to a leading economist, but the Crown Corporation’s efforts are certainly appreciated.

“I applaud CMHC for this very valuable analysis; they acknowledge the need for better data and will work with others to dig deeper,” Dr. Sherry Cooper, chief economist for Dominion Lending Centres, said in a release. “Additional study of foreign ownership of single-family homes across Canada is also warranted.”

CMHC released its latest foreign condo ownership data Thursday, noting non-Canadians own more condos in the two hottest markets than they did last year.

Foreign condo owners own 3.5% of units in Vancouver and 3.3% in Toronto; up from 2.3% and 2.4% a year ago, respectively.

However, the methodology – which considers a foreign buyer anyone whose principle residence is outside Canada -- used by the nation’s housing agency doesn’t capture the entire picture, according to Cooper.

“While this is the most comprehensive study to date, accurate numbers on foreign ownership are inherently illusive,” Cooper said. “Many foreign condo owners protect their identity through numbered companies, trusts and other vehicles to assure their privacy.

“Many view Canada as a safe haven to invest and protect their money, globally diversify their holdings, and keep it out of the hands of their local tax collectors,” she continued. “Others buy properties for children or other family members working or attending school in Canada.”

Still, it’s a step in the right direction; especially considering CMHC is working with various industry stakeholders to learn more about the influence of foreign owners.

“I applaud CMHC for this very valuable analysis. They acknowledge the need for better data and will work with others to dig deeper,” Cooper said. “Additional study of foreign ownership of single-family homes across Canada is also warranted.”

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