A foreign investor tax is on the horizon, say real estate experts

CIBC economist Benjamin Tal opened the conference, warning that the residential real estate market is overshooting

Developers discuss the mythic Mainland Chinese buyer, plus just who is cleaning up the fuel spill?

Tax them and they will still come

Foreign investors will likely face a tax on real estate purchases in the near future, or so concluded a panel at the Vancouver Real Estate Forum at a packed Vancouver Convention Centre Thursday morning. 

“We’re going to start hearing more about potential restrictions on foreign investment because of the impact on housing,” said Bruce Clarke, president of Peterson Group, a large owner and investor in commercial properties in Vancouver. Five or six years ago such a tax was unthinkable, he said.

But don’t expect a tax to deter buyers. One panellist pointed to the consequences of the cancellation of the investor immigrant program by the federal government, which he said had no significant impact. “Nothing stops someone from Asia from buying a home [in Vancouver],” said Jim Szabo, vice chairman of brokerage CBRE Ltd., as most investors “don’t feel the need for landed status.” Moreover, the criteria for many “is just getting their money out,” said Clarke.

A costly cleanup
So what is the Western Canada Marine Response Corp., the company tasked with cleaning up Wednesday’s fuel spill in the Burrard Inlet? With a fleet of around 30 oil response vessels, WCMRC is an industry-funded co-op. that provides cleanup services by deploying booms, boats and hoses to skim the water. In the event of a spill, the responsible party is supposed to contract out to WCMRC  and then pay 100 per cent of the cleanup fees. But last night, there was a problem: the suspected vessel denied that its fuel is responsible, so six hours after the spill began, the Coast Guard responded. And while WCRMC  is aiding in the cleanup, the Coast Guard is leading. It’s still uncertain, however, who will end up paying for the cleanup: the company, the port or taxpayers. 

Video game star plans a comeback
Donald Mattrick, the gaming executive who spent much of his career building Vancouver into a video game powerhouse, plans to quit his job as the CEO of Zynga and move back to B.C. Before moving to the U.S. in 2007 to head up Microsoft’s Xbox division, Mattrick had spent two and a half decades building up Distinctive Software, which was later acquired by global gaming giant Electronic Arts. The company still runs a campus and heads up its largest global operation in the region. As for Mattrick, he may also be looking for a place to live: he recently sold his Point Grey home for an eye-popping $51 million