It seems like every time you turn around there’s a new eye popping real estate story in Vancouver, and today is no different.
The latest? A $31.1 million dollar Point Grey mansion, allegedly 99% owned by a student, Tian Yu Zhou.
To get some insight on how that could be, and what it could mean we checked in with investigative reporter Kathy Tomlinson who’s been hot on the real estate beat.
Tian’s home 14,600 square foot five-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion at 4833 Belmont Ave certainly seems out of reach of a student.
But Tomlinson says after diving deep into B.C.’s land titles, she’s seen plenty of similar cases where big money properties are registered to students or home makers with little or no income.
She says there’s no ethical or legal issue with a student owning a mansion like this, assuming their parents can pay for it.
But she says the trouble comes when it’s used as a tax dodge.
“The problem comes into play when the property isn’t actually occupied by the student, and when the real owner, the beneficial owner, the parents usually, don’t claim any tax gains because of that. So they’re able to be investors in Canada, and own homes and sell them and have them as investments and not pay capital gains tax.”
On top of that, she says, there’s the issue of such a technique contributing to the city’s empty homes. She says in the course of her investigations she’s seen first hand how many of these properties are vacant.
“I had a list of addresses that were owned by students and I drove around going to those places. And several of them were completely unoccupied. Not furniture and no one home: completely empty. And so that’s where the questions come in of whether these are actual investments by parents or whomever, and that they’re being put in the name of students partially to avoid paying capital gains taxes.”
Tomlinson says the problem is worse than the city’s recent report on empty homes suggests.
She says the survey ignored homes with demolition permits pending, being demolished, or new construction.
She adds it didn’t look at winter months, and that foreign investors typically come for short periods in the summer, potentially making the houses appear occupied.