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Anne McMullin: Regulations, taxes, fees drive housing prices higher

By ANNE MCMULLIN for Vancouver Sun

In the most talked about real estate market in Canada, housing is always the hottest news story. From front-page headlines, to call-in radio shows and breathless television news coverage, the debate over housing rages on.

Add in the public opinion polls and fierce social media spotlight, and it is clear that we have become fixated on housing and measures to cool the market. Fingers are pointed, blame is assigned. There is no doubt the hardships are real and the fears are justified. With rising prices and declining supply, we all wonder where it leaves us, our children and our parents.

But amid all the noise and hype, three expert reports were issued in the last few weeks which flew under the radar, receiving little public attention. Interestingly, all three express views which run counter to the popular, simplistic narrative which suggest additional taxes are good and foreign buyers are not.

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The first, from independent think tank C.D. Howe Institute, says housing prices are being driven upward because of excessive government regulation. In Vancouver, the report authors say excessive regulation – such as zoning rules, taxes and development charges – is estimated to add more than $600,000 to the cost of a new home.

In a city known for its staggering numbers, that one is enough to make anyone pause and reflect. The report, which looked at eight important markets across the country, says government efforts to cool an overheated market “have focused on curtailing the demand for housing, instead of taking meaningful steps to increase the supply.”

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