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.”
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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.”
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Some question whether searching through land titles, which don’t list things like income, is an effective method of trying to discover tax evasion.
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“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