Foreigners now banned from buying homes in Canada

Photo of a 'Sold' sticker on a 'For Sale' sign outside a home in Canada.

A two-year ban on some foreigners buying homes in Canada has come into effect. The ban aims to help ease one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world.

As of this summer, the average home price in Canada is C$777,200 ($568,000) – more than 11 times the median household income after taxes.

Some have been critical of the ban, saying it is unclear what impact it will have on Canada’s housing market.

Non-Canadian residents make up less than 6% of homeowners in Ontario and British Columbia, where national statistics indicate home prices are the highest.

As of 1 January, the ban prohibits people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents from buying residential properties, and imposes a C$10,000 fine on those who breach it.

In late December, 11 days before the ban came into effect – the Canadian government announced some exemptions to the regulation, including for international students who have been in the country for at least five years, refugee claimants and people with temporary work permits.

In a statement, federal housing minister Ahmed Hussen said the ban is meant to discourage buyers from looking at homes as commodities instead of a place to live and grow a family. “Through this legislation, we’re taking action to ensure that housing is owned by Canadians, for the benefit of everyone who lives in this country,” Mr Hussen said.

While housing prices in Canada dipped slightly in 2022, they remain much higher than a decade ago. Housing prices were up 48% last year compared to 2013, when the average price of a home was C$522,951.

Meanwhile, the average household income for Canadians has struggled to keep pace to rising home prices. The latest data indicates the median after-tax household income grew 9.8% from 2015 to 2020.

The average home price in two of Canada’s largest cities – Toronto and Vancouver – has topped the C$1m mark, often putting them at the list of top 10 most unaffordable cities in the world.

New Zealand passed a similar legislation banning foreign homebuyers in 2018 as the country grappled with its own housing affordability crisis. However, inflation-adjusted home prices have continued to rise since the ban came into effect.

Other countries have enacted different measures to curb foreign homeownership, including by implementing designated restricted zones where non-residents are barred from purchasing homes, or bringing in specific fees on foreign buyers.

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