Today I had the opportunity to stand in the Legislature and ask Finance Minister Carole James about collecting housing data to better inform the ongoing development of a evidence-based housing strategy.
Developing well-informed evidence-based public policy starts with a strong foundation of good data.
To the Minister of Finance: What steps has your ministry taken in these early days to better track who is purchasing housing in B.C., where they are paying their taxes, and where the money being used to purchase the house is coming from?
Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member for the question. I think he has pointed out one of the many big gaps that the other side left when we deal with the affordability in housing prices, which is information.
The previous government took a piecemeal approach to dealing with the housing affordability crisis. We are making sure that we gather the information. In fact, in this budget there are two steps that were specific steps that were taken to gather that information.
First, we’re improving data collection to address the very issues that the member has raised. We’ve improved information-sharing under the the homeowners grant and the Income Tax Act by allowing information to be shared between the two acts. And further, we’ve amended the Income Tax Act in this budget update so these are part of the budget to provide tax administrators with increased access to assessment data.
We take this issue very seriously. I’m working with my colleague, the Minister of Housing, to ensure we present a comprehensive approach to housing affordability to actually address the issue in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
A. Olsen: If we’re going to ensure that houses are used first and foremost as homes, and they’re not simply commodities to be bought and sold for profit — just flipped — we need to understand what is actually happening in our province.
I think we must turn now to the now-Attorney General, who as opposition critic argued “It would be very easy for the province to do the gold standard and map up who is paying worldwide tax here in B.C., and who is buying property to determine the extent of the problem.”
Every stakeholder we can find, from academics to the chamber of commerce, is saying, “We need more information to inform our policies.”
We have heard this government repeatedly state that they’re currently working on a housing strategy. If we do not have a gold standard of data tracking in B.C., what information is that strategy being built on?
Hon. C. James: I couldn’t agree more with the member. I couldn’t agree more on the information that needs to be gathered. That’s why we’re making the changes in this budget update that are coming forward. I’m sure we’ll see strong support for those changes.
Coordinating the information-sharing between the homeowner’s grant and the Income Tax Act will actually provide the opportunity for that data to be looked at together to ensure that we’re addressing the speculation piece. We can then put together the changes that need to occur, whether it’s taxes, whether it’s building houses to look at demand and supply, and put together that comprehensive strategy. That’s what I’m looking forward to.