US & Canada

Canadian PM Stephen Harper wants to track foreign home buyers

Home prices in Vancouver (above) and Toronto are well above the national average Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Home prices in Vancouver (above) and Toronto are well above the national average

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced plans to track foreign homeownership and raised the possibility of eventually enacting limits on buying.

Foreign investors have been blamed for driving up the cost of real estate in Toronto and Vancouver.

Hurt by failing oil prices, Canada's ailing economy has become a major issue as the country elects new leadership.

Mr Harper said that about 15% of condos in Vancouver aren't being lived in.

"If such foreign, non-resident buyers are artificially driving up the cost of real estate and Canadian families are shut out of the market, that is a matter we can and should do something about," said Mr Harper said, who was campaigning in Vancouver on Wednesday.

While home prices in the country's interior have fallen, prices have remained high in Toronto and Vancouver.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prime Minister Harper wants to model Canada's new policy after Australia

The average price of a detached home in Vancouver - the country's most expensive market - is more than $1 million (£640,000).

Harper's Conservative Party said it was looking into restrictions on foreign homeownership that have been put in place by other western countries.

Australia limits the ability of foreign buyers to purchase existing homes for investment, and only allow foreign investment resulting in new home construction.

If necessary, Mr Harper said the Conservative government will take action in coordination with the provinces to make sure foreign non-resident investment "supports the availability and affordability of homes for Canadians."

His administration also announced that Canadians will now be permitted to withdraw $35,000 (£17,241) instead of $25,000 (£12,315) from retirement accounts to purchase their first homes.

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