Buying a condo in Coquitlam, B.C. was supposed to be the next chapter in Hamed Ahmadi’s Canadian story.
He moved here from Iran in 2012 to earn his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of British Columbia, and landed a job at BC Hydro immediately after graduating.
From there, Ahmadi decided it was time to purchase a home. He couldn’t afford anything in Vancouver, and even turning to the suburbs required some help from his retired parents back home, for which he’s very grateful.
“The money here compared with the money in Iran, there’s a big difference. $1,000 here cannot do much, but in Iran it can do a lot,” Ahmadi said.
After much searching, Ahmadi and his girlfriend found a $360,000 condo in May, and paid $18,000 as half the 10 per cent down payment. The other $18,000 was supposed to be paid this Friday, when the deal is set to close.
But as Ahmadi was excitedly preparing for the move, buying paint and looking at used furniture, he learned about B.C.’s new property transfer tax on foreign buyers. His heart sank.
“It’s really hard to understand why this is happening,” Ahmadi said, struggling to maintain his composure. “I’ve never been this hopeless in my life. I’ve been through a lot but I’ve never been this hopeless.”
Ahmadi is still months away from getting permanent resident status, putting him in the unlucky group of middle-class British Columbians who have found themselves targeted by a tax purportedly imposed to crack down on rich real estate speculators from overseas.
He is now faced with a wrenching choice: pay an extra $54,000 in taxes, which he can’t afford, or forfeit his sizeable deposit on the home and risk a lawsuit from the seller.
“Now I have no options. I cannot close the deal because I don’t have the money, and I cannot leave the deal because I’ll be sued for that. I’m just left high and dry, I don’t know what to do,” he said.
The opposition NDP has criticized the implementation of the government’s new property transfer tax for a number of reasons, including the lack of exceptions for people like Ahmadi. Housing critic David Eby described their predicaments as “heartbreaking.”
“It’s preventable, it’s bad policy and the government could fix it if they wanted to,” Eby said.
CTV News spoke with BC Liberal cabinet minister Andrew Wilkinson on Wednesday and asked several times for comment on Ahmadi's situation. Wilkinson responded by repeating a piece of blanket advice for the people impacted.
“Those who find themselves affected by the tax should seek legal advice because individual circumstances vary,” Wilkinson said.
That leaves Ahmadi with just two days to decide how to respond to a dilemma he never imagined he’d face in Canada.
“I have seen a lot of injustice in my country and that was one of the strongest reasons that I came here, because I knew that this country has laws and they care about people,” he said.
“I totally agree that the housing market is not the way that it should be here. There should be some sort of law to help this problem, but is this really fair what is happening to me? Is it really fair?”
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson