VANCOUVER (Reuters) - First-time home buyers in British Columbia, home to Canada's most expensive real estate market, started applying for loans from the provincial government on Monday under a program it says will make ownership more affordable.
The Western Canadian province last month unveiled a plan to provide 25-year loans of up to C$37,500 ($28,480) to qualifying buyers to help with their first down payment. The loans are interest-free and require no repayment in the first five years.
Twenty-four applications had been submitted as of 1 p.m. PT (1600 EST), a spokeswoman for the minister responsible for housing said in an email.
The program has been criticized by economists and academics who say it will pile more debt onto already financially-stretched residents and increase home prices even more in a region where a supply shortage is the real problem.
Some have said the plan, launched four months before a provincial election, is politically motivated.
"If this program does anything, the only thing it can do is increase demand. It can't increase supply. That puts upward pressure on prices and ultimately harms affordability," said Joshua Gottlieb, an assistant professor of economics at the University of British Columbia.
The provincial government and Vancouver's municipal government have taken several steps over the past year aimed at cooling the red-hot housing market. Prices for a typical single-family home in British Columbia's biggest city surged 19 percent last year to nearly C$1.5 million.
Most notable was a 15 percent tax introduced in August by the province on house purchases by foreigners in Vancouver after many residents and housing advocates complained that international buyers, especially from China, were driving up prices.
The tax has damped sales and led some real estate agents to forecast near double-digit percentage declines this year in prices, which until now have remained resilient. Since August, Vancouver-area home sales have fallen each month and in December dropped nearly 40 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.
For prices to become more affordable, however, supply needs to be increased, Gottlieb said.
"The city government should make it much easier to increase density. And the provincial government should pressure the city to do that," he said.
请看BC 省官网链接（包括中文PDF 附件）：
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Metro Vancouver home sales return to typical August levels
VANCOUVER, BC – September 2, 2016 – For the second straight month, home buyer demand in Metro Vancouver* moved off of the record-breaking pace seen earlier this year and returned to more typical levels.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Metro Vancouver totalled 2,489 in August 2016, a decline of 26 per cent compared to the 3,362 sales in August 2015; 10.2 per cent less than the 2,771 sales in August 2014; and one per cent less than the 2,514 sales in August 2013. August 2016 sales also represent a 22.8 per cent decline compared to last month’s sales.
From a historical perspective, last month’s sales were 3.5 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month.
“The record-breaking sales we saw earlier this year were replaced by more historically normal activity throughout July and August,” Dan Morrison, REBGV president said. "Sales have been trending downward in Metro Vancouver for a few months. The new foreign buyer tax appears to have added to this trend by reducing foreign buyer activity and causing some uncertainty amongst local home buyers and sellers.
“It’ll take some months before we can really understand the impact of the new tax. We'll be interested to see the government's next round of foreign buyer data."
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 4,293 in August 2016. This represents an increase of 0.3 per cent compared to the 4,281 units listed in August 2015 and an 18.1 per cent decrease compared to July 2016 when 5,241 properties were listed.
The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® in Metro Vancouver is 8,506, a 21.9 per cent decline compared to August 2015 (10,897) and a 1.9 per cent increase from July 2016 (8,351).
The sales-to-active listings ratio for August 2016 is 29.3 per cent. This is indicative of a seller’s market.
Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it reaches the 20 to 22 per cent range in a particular community for a sustained period.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $933,100. This represents a 31.4 per cent increase compared to August 2015 and a 4.9 per cent increase over the last three months.
“In aggregate, we continue to see an imbalance between supply and demand in most communities. However, we’re also seeing fewer detached sales in the highest price points and fewer detached home sales relative to all residential sales,” Morrison said. “This is causing average sale prices to show a decline in recent months, while benchmark home prices remain virtually unchanged from July.”
The average price is the simplest home price measure to explain but is not the most accurate since it may be skewed by the mix of properties. More high-end or low-end sales will skew the number up or down. Based on the Consumer Price Index, MLS HPI® benchmark prices are a more reliable and stable indicator of typical home prices across regions over time.
Sales of detached properties in August 2016 reached 715, a decrease of 44.6 per cent from the 1,290 detached sales recorded in August 2015. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 35.8 per cent from August 2015 to $1,577,300. This represents a 4.2 per cent increase over the last three months.
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,343 in August 2016, a decrease of 10.1 per cent compared to the 1,494 sales in August 2015.The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 26.9 per cent from August 2015 to $514,300. This represents a 6.1 per cent increase over the last three months.
Attached property sales in August 2016 totalled 431, a decrease of 25.4 per cent compared to the 578 sales in August 2015. The benchmark price of an attached home increased 31.1 per cent from August 2015 to $677,600. This represents a 7.1 per cent increase over the last three months.
August's sale will be low, of course and as expected. We may even see a bit of price weakness for this month.
This is in part because of the 15% additional Property Transfer Tax enacted by BC government. This new and significant tax will certainly drive away quite a number of foreign buyers. Those who believe that foreign buyers would not care about the added expense are just ignorant. As the statistics suggests, this 10% of purchasers should be absent from the market in August.
The Tax should also have had a stunning effect for other people who are not subject to additional cost but are likely scared and have a short expectation.
August has traditionlly been vacation season and usually sees low sales volumn.
Overall, I wouldn't feel surprised if sales volume turns out significant smaller.
On the other hand, the big picture has not changed. Housing supply remains inadequet, interest rate at historic low and may get reduced even further because of Canada's overall economic conditions.
In another word, Vancouver's housing market will be picking up soon after the market breathes away the tax smells.
I feel the next 1-2 months would make the best buying window.
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