Chilliwack mayor talks land ownership transparency at UBCM

Speaking for the civic government body, Sharon Gaetz urged the province to further enforce tax laws

Chilliwack’s mayor represented the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) this week in that body’s move to urge the provincial government to identify anonymous land speculators and enforce tax laws properly.

In her role as UBCM third vice-president, Mayor Sharon Gaetz spoke at this week’s UBCM convention in Whistler about the provincial government’s draft Land Owner Transparency Act (LOTA), designed to curb anonymous and speculative investing in real estate.

“We commend the provincial government for beginning to take action to bring greater transparency to home ownership,” Gaetz said about LOTA, which the province is still accepting input on.

“Knowing exactly who is purchasing homes will help ensure that all real estate owners in the province pay their fair share of taxes. Closing loopholes and better transparency will lead to the kind of enforcement needed to slow speculative real estate purchases that are driving up prices in B.C. beyond what people can afford.”

The province outlined LOTA in June, stating it “would create a publicly accessible registry to clearly identify the true, beneficial owners of real estate in the province and prevent investors from hiding behind numbered companies, offshore and domestic trusts, and corporations,” according to the UBCM’s press release issued Monday.

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UBCM’s Special Committee on Housing released a report on B.C.’s housing crisis earlier this year and recommended four key policy shifts:

• a rental housing strategy to address low rental inventories

• a demand management strategy to reduce speculation and tax evasion

• a comprehensive homeless strategy

• a collaborative approach by all levels of government towards housing affordability.

And while UBCM sees aspects of LOTA as a good first step, the body representing B.C.’s municipalities is further urging the provincial and federal governments to work on:

• The publication of aggregate data on pre-sales

• Identifying additional data needs and actions to address tax avoidance in real estate.

• Ensuring better co-ordination of agencies responsible for monitoring and regulating the relations between property transactions and capital flows, including Canada Revenue Agency, FINTRAC, Canada’s banks, and the Real Estate Council of BC.

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