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Real estate association economist asks if B.C.'s flipping tax is worth the trouble

The British Columbia Real Estate Association's chief economist, Brendon Ogmundson, is questioning the effectiveness of the impending flipping tax on houses, suggesting that it may not yield the anticipated revenue for the government and could have a limited impact on the real estate market.

Ogmundson highlights that approximately 10% of real estate transactions in Metro Vancouver involve properties being resold within two years of purchase. However, he points out that many of these transactions would qualify for exemptions under the new tax rules, such as cases related to divorce or job relocation. This insight raises doubts about the government's revenue projections and the potential impact of the flipping tax on a significant number of properties.

The provincial budget estimates that the flipping tax will generate $43 million in its first full fiscal year. Despite this projection, the Real Estate Association suggests that British Columbia might experience a loss of $20 million in property transfer taxes. Ogmundson further notes that the implementation of the tax is introducing new administrative costs, adding an additional layer of complexity to property transactions.

Premier David Eby acknowledges that the flipping tax is not a "silver bullet" but emphasizes the government's commitment to exploring any measures that could alleviate competition for housing in the market. Eby's comments come during a news conference where he highlights the need to address housing affordability challenges.

The flipping tax, which was proposed by Premier Eby last year, was outlined in detail by Finance Minister Katrine Conroy during the recent budget speech. Effective January 1, 2025, homes sold within the first year after purchase will be subject to a tax rate of 20% of the profit. The tax rate gradually decreases to zero after two years, providing an incentive for property owners to hold onto their homes for a more extended period.

The government's stance is clear – while the flipping tax may not be a cure-all solution, it represents a step towards curbing speculative activity in the real estate market. Premier Eby and Finance Minister Conroy believe that any measure to reduce the number of individuals engaging in short-term property transactions is a positive move towards a more stable and affordable housing market.

As the flipping tax comes into effect, the real estate landscape in British Columbia is likely to undergo changes. The ongoing dialogue between the government, economists, and industry experts will be crucial in refining and adjusting policies to achieve the desired balance between revenue generation and housing market stability.