Home affordability continues to be one of the biggest struggles for Vancouver residents as the city marks the first anniversary of the imposition of a 15 per cent tax on foreign home buyers on Wednesday.

One year after the tax’s implementation, Metro Vancouver home sales have decelerated but volumes were already on the decline before August, which has called into question the effectiveness or necessity of the policy.

Despite the double digit year-over-year increases that dominated headlines, data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver shows home sales were actually falling on a monthly basis as early as March last year – well before the tax was implemented.

It leaves many wondering whether it was the tax or an exhausted market taking hold.

Wayne Ryan, managing broker at RE/MAX Crest Realty, told BNN in a phone interview he thinks the bulk of the housing correction we’ve seen would have happened without the foreign tax.

“Not a huge amount can be attributed to foreign buyer tax,” he said. “Market forces were more at work.”

The tax has also not done much in the way of home prices growth, where detached home prices have rebound to recent records and townhomes and condos have touched new highs.

The affordability crisis plaguing Vancouver has prompted the city’s government to roll out a number of other new initiatives in the past year including rezoning for social housing and quadrupling purpose-built rental targets. 

While the municipal government looks for more ways to deal with high home prices, the new provincial NDP minority government  is reviewing the policies put in place by their Liberal predecessors.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson says she’ll be assessing the efficacy of the foreign buyers’ tax and a loan program designed specifically for first-time home buyers and whether the policies warrant an alteration or if they should be nixed altogether.

Robinson told Canadian Press she plans to pour over real estate data with new provincial finance minister Carole James to make those determinations.

No matter what policymakers decide, Ryan told BNN they have a difficult task in front of them.

He says it’d likely take a “heavy hand” to cool the market, with there being “no easy answer.”