Strata Alert: CMHC data questions foreign ownership crisis in BC’s condo market

Paul lawyersStrata Alert: CMHC data questions foreign ownership crisis in BC’s condo market

Paul G. Mendes, Partner
Phone:  604-685-4894

Much ink has been spilled about the shortage of affordable housing in BC. Newspaper comment boards are often filled with subtle and not so subtle rants against foreign ownership. If you believe everything you read, most of the condo units in Yaletown and Coal Harbour sit empty while the rest of “us” are shut out of the market by foreign owners.

In case you were wondering, the words “foreign owner” and “foreign ownership” are code words used in polite conversation to refer mainly to offshore Chinese owners, Chinese immigrants, and depending on who you talk to, second generation or later Chinese Canadians.

It turns out, however, that some of our theories about foreign ownership in Vancouver’s condo market may not be supported by any evidence.

In a report published this month, CMHC confirmed what everybody already knew, namely that foreign ownership is most prominent in newer condominium developments in Toronto and Vancouver. It appears that foreign owners tend to steer away from condos in Regina for some reason.

What will likely be news to most people, however, is that the percentage of foreign ownership in Toronto and Vancouver is much lower than expected.  According to the CMHC findings:

“… the shares of foreign ownership in condominium apartments ranged from zero percent in the Regina …  to 3.3% and 3.5% in …Toronto and Vancouver …respectively.”

Wow!  Only 3.5% of condos in Vancouver are “foreign-owned”.  The CMHC findings also suggest that foreign ownership increases from 2% of strata units built in the 1990s to 6% for units constructed after 2010.

This may help to explain why governments have been slow to adopt “quick fix” solutions to the problem of housing affordability in BC.  If the CMHC findings are correct, a 50% reduction in foreign ownership in the condo market would likely have little to no impact on affordability. Other factors are obviously at play.

To read a copy of the CMHC report, click here.

WHAT WE DO:  Lesperance Mendes advises and represents strata owners, strata corporations and strata managers on all aspects of strata corporation governance. To find out more about our strata law practice, please contact Paul G Mendes, partner, at 604-685-4894 or

Lesperance Mendes Lawyers
900 Howe St #550, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2M4
(604) 685-3567