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How Does Land Transfer Tax Affect Home Affordability in Canada?

How Does Land Transfer Tax Affect Home Affordability in Canada?

Buying a home in Canada is usually a costly process, no matter where you live. According to recent data provided by the Canadian Real Estate Association, property buyers in Canada pay a national average of $496,000. As well as paying for their property, buyers also need to pay land transfer tax when the transaction is completed.

Quick Read:

Provinces and land transfer tax

Land transfer tax is set by each province and some of the municipalities. This tax is a percentage of the purchase price of a home. The tax must be paid in cash and it’s required to finish a deal. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to add this tax to your mortgage, unlike some insurance options (CMHC insurance).

Land transfer tax is not a flat rate across Canada, and it can swing wildly depending on where you live. Tax rates range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the jurisdiction.

A burden on home buyers

Land transfer tax can be a real burden for prospective home buyers. You’ll need to save money for your down payment, and find a separate budget for the tax payment.

In cities like Vancouver or Toronto, this can make home affordability very challenging. Vancouver and Toronto have the highest rates of land transfer tax in Canada, according to a Zoocasa survey studying land transfer tax across 25 Canadian cities. Zoocasa focused on Canada’s full range of property purchases, from first time home buyer rebates to the highest home prices, to find the best and the worst land tax rates across the country.

Land tax rates in Canada

The average property in Toronto, according to MLS listings,  costs $805,000. First-time home buyers in the city would be required to pay a tax of 2.1% on this purchase price – an additional $16,690. This would be the case even after a rebate of $8,475.

Repeat buyers not eligible for rebates would pay 3.1% or around $25,000. In some areas like Ottawa, that $25,000 would be equal to a down payment on a home. If we compare an average home in Edmonton with one in Vancouver for example, the land transfer rate in Edmonton can be as low as $239, while in Vancouver it can be as high as $20,000.

Vancouver and Toronto residents already pay the highest housing rates in the country and also have the highest tax rates on their home purchase. Quebec City also has a high tax rate.

 

Land transfer tax causes problems

High land transfer tax rates mean buyers have to save additional income to cover both the expense of owning a home and a high tax payment, particularly in  cities like Toronto or Vancouver. It takes longer to save this money and property costs could increase during the saving process.

While the MLTT tax generates income for the government, it puts a real burden on the home buyer. There is a fear that cites rely too much on this income stream that rises and falls with the cost of housing. If housing prices crash, this reduced income could leave our cities vulnerable.

Many feel that the government is failing to create an environment where housing is affordable for the average worker.

Cities like Vancouver face a housing crisis due to the high cost of buying a home and paying an additional tax on top. Politicians say they’re collecting the tax to pay for more affordable housing, but this tax simply exacerbates the problem.

The governments of Ontario and British Columbia have recently introduced policies to add more tax to properties to discourage foreign and wealthy domestic buyers. This sounds like a good idea on paper, but higher tax won’t stop wealthy buyers from making a purchase. These added costs simply push the average person out of the market.

Is there a solution?

The only real solution is to create more housing, but this is problematic too. Red tape makes it difficult to create new housing and it can take five years before developments are approved in cities like Vancouver.

Housing supply grows at a snail’s pace while available homes keep increasing in price. Many working families in Vancouver simply can’t afford to buy a home in the city. Many people are moving to smaller cities or other provinces like Saskatchewan or Alberta, where homes are more affordable.

Summary

Land transfer tax in cities like Vancouver and Toronto is creating a real burden for those looking to buy a home. These areas continue to cater to the wealthy and the average home buyer is priced out of the market. These cities could see a downturn if housing costs continue to rise, as families will move to provinces and cities with reasonable house prices and land transfer tax rates.