Temporary foreign workers who have at least 183 days left on their work permits have been added to the growing list of foreign nationals allowed to buy homes despite a ban in Canada.
Those temporary foreign workers, though, will be limited to buying no more than one residential property.
The two-year ban took effect on Jan. 1 this year.
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Right at the outset, permanent residents, international students, and diplomats and consular officials were exempt from the ban on buying Canadian real estate.
Then, in early December, Ottawa added a few additional exemptions to the ban to also include any vulnerable persons who already have temporary visa who are fleeing a conflict or those who have already filed a refugee claim in Canada. Those exemptions are at the discretion of Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.
Now, Canada is exempting temporary foreign workers with six months left on their work permits as well as foreign nationals and businesses who intend to buy vacant land to develop it for residential or mixed use.
Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen says the latest exemptions to the ban are to provide greater flexibility to newcomers and businesses seeking to contribute to Canada.
“These amendments will allow newcomers to put down roots in Canada through home ownership and businesses to create jobs and build homes by adding to the housing supply in Canadian cities,” said Hussen.
“These amendments strike the right balance in ensuring that housing is used to house those living in Canada rather than a speculative investment by foreign investors.”
Along with these changes, the government also redefined what it means to be a foreign-owned company, effectively allowing companies to have more foreign ownership without being deemed foreign-owned companies.
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“For the purposes of the prohibition, with regards to privately-held corporations or privately-held entities formed under the laws of Canada or a province and controlled by a non-Canadian, the control threshold has increased from three per cent to 10 per cent,” the government noted in a statement. “This aligns with the definition of ‘specified Canadian Corporation’ in the Underused Housing Tax Act.”
The exemption to allow foreign-owned companies to buy vacant land in Canada for development comes roughly two weeks after Ottawa launched its $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund to provide funding for municipalities to fast-track the creation of 100,000 new homes across Canada.
“Canada has the fastest growing population in the G7 but our housing supply hasn’t kept up with demand,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement on March 17.
“The Housing Accelerator Fund will help local governments cut red tape and backlogs, build the housing we need, and give more people in Canada a safe and affordable place to call home. We will continue to work to make life more affordable and create stronger, more prosperous communities from coast to coast to coast.”
The two-year ban that prevents many non-Canadians from buying real estate sets out penalties for those who break the law and even allows for the government to sell off property bought in breach of the prohibition.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled Ottawa’s strategy last year as part of a plan to keep house prices in Canada from rising so high as to push working-class and young Canadians out of the real estate market.
“We will make the market fairer for Canadians,” said Freeland. “We will prevent foreign investors from parking their money in Canada by buying up homes. We will make sure that houses are being used as homes for Canadian families rather than as a speculative financial asset class.”
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Those foreign investors, though, do not include foreign nationals who are studying at Canadian colleges and universities or those from other countries who have already obtained their permanent residency.
Ottawa put the ban into place because of the perception that speculative investment in Canadian real estate was fueling inflation in the housing market.
“For years, foreign money has been coming into Canada to buy residential real estate, fuelling concerns about the impact on costs in cities like Vancouver and Toronto and worries about Canadians being priced out of the housing market in cities and towns across the country,” stated a backgrounder on the housing market published online by the federal government’s finance department.”
Canada remains bullish on immigration with record-breaking targets for each of the next three years.
In its 2023-2025 Immigration Levels Plan, Ottawa has set the target for 2023 at 465,000 new permanent residents. The country is to welcome 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and another 500,000 in 2025.
That’s a total of 1.45 million immigrants to Canada over the coming three years.