The British Columbia NDP government intends to introduce legislation mandating Canada’s first public registry of property beneficial ownership, to deter investors from buying housing through nominee companies and trusts.

The move to crack down on real estate “hidden ownership” comes following months of concerns that money laundering is adding to the housing crisis in the province. In particular, Vancouver has seen average house prices increase by 81 percent in the last five years.

The province’s Finance Minister, Carole James said BC had developed a reputation as an attractive place to anonymously invest and hide wealth.

The BC NDP government increased the foreign buyer tax to 20 percent this year, however, it is thought that many investors can avoid this tax as they can use offshore and domestic trusts, as well as numbered companies and corporations, to purchase real estate.

“Ending this type of hidden ownership in real estate will help us fight tax evasion, tax fraud and money laundering,” commented James.

The law will require the names, nationalities and tax identification numbers of beneficial owners, to make it clear to the government exactly who ultimately owns the property, and to help tax authorities and regulators ensure the right taxes are being paid.

The new transparency laws are part of a broader plan by the left-leaning NDP, which came to power in mid-2017, to crack down on real estate speculation and create more affordable housing.