The foreign home buyer tax that went into effect last August in Vancouver will no longer apply to residents of Metro Vancouver who have a valid work permit, according to Premier Christy Clark.

While this appears to be a sudden move, the existing legislation doesn't need to be amended to enforce the change. The suggestion to exempt temporary and legal workers has been made in the past, although the announcement, which came during a media scrum at a parade for the Chinese New Year, seems to have been in direct and immediate response to the recent 90-day ban on travelers entering the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — as well as refugees from Syria.

“People who are seeking refuge around the world should be able to find safe haven here in our province. We believe the best and the brightest should be able to come to British Columbia,” Clark said during a media scrum at the Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver.

The impact of the tax was certainly felt in Vancouver; in November, there were 204 transactions involving foreigners in Metro Vancouver compared to the 1,974 transactions that took place seven weeks before the tax came into effect. But home sales overall were on a decline well before the tax came into effect, because there weren't as many listings available. Residential average prices skyrocketed during the first half of 2016, fell sharply over the summer, and slowly began to creep up again in the latter part of the year.

Tax revenues from property transfers in Metro Vancouver show there were about 15,000 transactions in an approximately seven-week period ending Aug. 1, but the number dropped to a low of about 4,700 for the month of October.

“When we see what’s happening down in the United States, I think it's importatnt to send a message to people who may be wanting to go to America or maybe wanting to come from America, that they are welcome if they're going to work here and pay taxes here, to buy a home here and make their life here without paying that extra tax," Clark told Global News.

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