The Langley homeowner who challenged the province’s foreign buyers tax has lost her appeal of the ruling.
In a June 29 ruling by three judges of the B.C. Court of Appeal, the judges all agreed that the three main arguments used by would-be buyer Jing Li, including on constitutional grounds, did not stand up and the appeal was dismissed.
The foreign buyers tax was first brought in under the B.C. Liberals in 2016 and affected properties in the Lower Mainland, where home prices have seen several sharp increases over the past decade. After the B.C. NDP won election in 2017, they increased the tax from 15 to 20 per cent and widened its scope to the Fraser Valley, Victoria, Nanaimo, and the Central Okanagan.
Both parties said the tax was meant to cool the overheated housing market and preserve affordability.
Li moved to Canada in 2013 and is a Chinese citizen, who was living here with a work permit, but not with permanent residency when she sought to buy a house in Langley in 2016. She claimed the tax violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, discriminating on the basis of race, ethnic origin, or colour.
Justice Gregory Bowden ruled against Li in 2019.
Her appeal was fought on similar grounds.
• The tax couldn’t be imposed by the province, because it was legislation over naturalization of citizens that is held only by the federal government
• Or, that the new tax was in conflict with both the federal Citizenship Act and the NAFTA accord,
• That it violated her rights on the basis of citizenship or national origin.
The judges of the Court of Appeal rejected all three arguments.
First, they ruled that the purpose of the tax was linked to housing affordability, which is only “incidentally” linked to the federal government’s powers over immigration.
Second, they found that there was no conflict with the Citizenship Act or NAFTA.
Third, they found that while race and ethnicity are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, citizenship-related issues are not.
In their reasons for the ruling, the judges wrote that in 2016, the price of a single family home in Metro Vancouver had risen by 40 per cent in a year and condos had risen by 30 per cent.
“The growth of incomes has not matched these increases,” the judges noted.
When the province started collecting data on the nationality of property purchasers, they found that 6.6 per cent of B.C. residential property transactions involved foreign buyers, and the number was 9.7 per cent in Metro Vancouver.
In 2017, foreign nationals who were close to achieving permanent residency – the first major step on the road to citizenship – and who intended to live in the properties were exempted.
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