Numbers compiled by NDP housing critic David Eby found that a surprisingly large number of multi-million dollar properties on Vancouver’s west side were owned by people who list their occupations as either “homemaker” or “student.”
Eby did a search of 250 land titles and found that 32 of west side properties — worth a total of more than $107 million — were owned by people in professions with relatively low incomes. He pointed to a $2.3-million home owned by a waitress.
“The question that I have is where is the money coming from?” Eby asked. “Because students and homemakers by definition — waitresses — have very low or no incomes.”
READ MORE: Vancouver tops housing ‘bubble risk’: report
The numbers don’t point to any kind of illegal activity. There is no law against gifting money to someone to buy a home or being a guarantor on a mortgage for someone with a small income.
But Eby said it’s important to “recognize that people are using our housing market as an investment, as a form of a tax shelter from capital gains.”
Some question whether searching through land titles, which don’t list things like income, is an effective method of trying to discover tax evasion.
“Because someone is listed as a homemaker, to then start making insinuations that they haven’t paid taxes, I think is irresponsible,” Tsur Somerville of UBC’s Sauder School of Business said.
“What you don’t know is where the money came from,” Somerville added. “What if it’s a family and they decide to register this one in the name of one of their children — as a student — even though they all live here and they all pay taxes?
“We can’t differentiate this and it seems like it’s a real fishing expedition to try to find something that might be associated with capital inflows. Even if it is, those aren’t illegal.”
— With files from Jill Bennett