Who Owns what, where…

Ron Bolin: Sept. 17, 2016

There has been considerable discussion concerning the addition of a 15% surtax on the purchase of Vancouver residential property by foreigners.  A recent request for information about the control over foreign land ownership in other nations to MLA Leonard Krog led to the following list of some of the mechanisms used by other countries in control of their most precious resource.  The information was provided to Mr. Krog, and through him to me, by one of the librarians at the Legislative Library, once again enforcing the significance of libraries and librarians to our system of government.

The list provided neither is, nor claims to be, complete.  A number of missing countries spring to mind, most notably perhaps, China.  The longer term consequences of the recent provincial decision to adopt the surcharge in Victoria remain to be seen, though a sharp decline has been noted for Vanvouver, while a sharp increase has been claimed for Seattle. The extent to which the Vancouver surcharge may affect Nanaimo and the rest of Vancouver Island remains to be seen…

What do you think about this move by the Provincial government?


From: Krog.MLA, Leonard Eugene

Sent: Friday, September 16, 2016 10:36
Subject: FW: Foreign Ownership

Dear Ron,

Here is some information for you researched by the Legislative Library in Victoria.




From: Blandford, Alieda 

Sent: September 15, 2016 4:40 PM
To: Krog.MLA, Leonard Eugene <Leonard.Krog.MLA@leg.bc.ca>
Subject: RE: Foreign Ownership


Hi Pauline,

Here is what I’ve been able to find out regarding restrictions on foreign ownership in various popular real estate markets around the world.

First, foreign ownership restrictions often vary across cities and jurisdictions. For example, in Canada: Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land, while PEI restricts the amount of land that can be purchased by non-residents. For more information about the various restrictions to foreign ownership in Canada, this backgrounder published by the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright in 2015 might be helpful:

Hong Kong

According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong levied a 15% tax on property purchases made by foreigners in October 2012. (The full text of the article is attached.)


According to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, foreigners buying residential property in Singapore pay an additional 15% tax (up from 10% in January 2013).

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Land (Restriction on Alienation) Act of 2014 expressly prohibits “the transfer of title of any land situated in Sri Lanka […] to a foreigner.”


According to the Thai Land Code Act, foreign nationals can only own property in Thailand by virtue of the provisions of a treaty (none of which currently exist), and with the express permission of the Minister of Justice.


According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, the UK closed a tax loophole in February 2015 by imposing a capital gains tax of up to 28% for overseas real estate investors.


According to Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, anyone who is not a permanent resident of Denmark must obtain the permission of the Ministry of Justice in order to purchase property in Denmark.


The Swiss Federal Office of Justice’s Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad explains how Switzerland restricts the acquisition of real estate by foreigners. The Swiss government limits the number of properties that can be sold to foreign nationals annually in each of the country’s 26 cantons (member states). The cantons can also impose further restrictions, such as limiting foreign buyers to real estate that is already foreign-owned (p. 10).

(Coastal) Mexico

Mexico’s Constitution stipulates that “Under no circumstances may foreigners acquire direct ownership of lands or waters” in what is known as the “restricted zone,” one hundred kilometers wide from the borders and fifty kilometers wide along the coast.


According to Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board, non-resident foreign persons need to apply for and receive foreign investment approval before purchasing any residential real estate in Australia. (The application fee is dependent on the property’s value, between $5,000 and $90,000.)

Foreign buyers cannot buy established dwellings. Instead, they are restricted to new builds, vacant lots, or redevelopment in a way that increases the number of housing units. While temporary residents can purchase one established dwelling for use as their residence, this must be sold within three months of their departure from Australia.


I hope this information is a helpful starting point, but please let me know if your constituent has further questions.


Alieda Blandford
Reference Librarian | Legislative Library of British Columbia | Parliament Buildings |


Sent: September 13, 2016 12:18 PM
To: Krog.MLA, Leonard Eugene <
Subject: Foreign Ownership


Hi Leonard…


With all the talk of the 15% surtax on foreign buyers in Vancouver, I have heard nothing about the status of foreign ownership in any other country in the world. 


Could you prevail upon the research resources of the province to prepare a proper presentation on how we differ from others in these aspects for the public?