UPDATE 3-Canada PM vows to track, possibly limit foreign home buyers

Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:18pm EDT
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(Adds commentary from Vancouver real estate agents, academic, context on housing markets)

By Randall Palmer and Julie Gordon

OTTAWA/VANCOUVER Aug 12 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged on Wednesday to track and possibly limit foreign purchases of Canadian real estate if reelected, but the move was not expected to cool foreign buying anytime soon.

"There are real concerns that foreign, nonresident real estate speculation is the reason some Canadian families find house prices beyond their budgets," Harper said while visiting suburban Vancouver.

The announcement hones in on fears in Vancouver that foreign money - mostly from mainland China - is driving rapidly rising housing prices, fueling calls for government to track international buyers and impose restrictions.

If the Conservatives return to power in the Oct. 19 vote, Harper said his government will start collecting data on Canadian real estate purchases by nonresident foreigners.

If necessary, he would coordinate with Canada's provinces to ensure that foreign, nonresident investment "supports the availability and affordability of homes for Canadians".

He did not provide details of what might trigger such a step.

But Vancouver real estate agents questioned whether the measures would have much impact on the city's red hot property market because recent changes to immigration policy did little to discourage Chinese interest.   Continued...