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The real estate sector is losing the privilege of policing itself in B.C., the provincial government announced Wednesday.

Premier Christy Clark said the province is taking over regulatory responsibilities in a bid to better serve consumers and increase public confidence in the industry.

“The point of regulation is to protect people,” Clark said.

“The real estate sector has had 10 years to get it right on self-regulation and they haven’t.”

The rule-making authority currently held by the industry-controlled Real Estate Council of B.C. will be passed on to a newly established superintendent of real estate, Clark added.

A job posting for that position has already been posted.

The announcement followed one day after the release of a damning report prepared by an independent advisory group, which made 28 recommendations aimed at improving oversight and protections in the sector.

Clark said the government will be taking “immediate action” to implement all of those measures.

Among them is a call to hike the maximum fine for individual misconduct from $10,000 to a whopping $250,000, and the maximum fine for brokerages from $20,000 to $500,000.

The report also calls for banning real estate agents from representing sellers and buyers on the same contract, to ensure the best interests of all clients are properly considered.

“Protecting consumers is vitally important, especially in this market where everything’s moving so quickly and people are telling us that they feel taken advantage of, that there are shady practices,” Clark said.

A confidential whistleblower line for people to make complaints – another measure called for in the report – will be set up as well, the government said.

The Opposition NDP welcomed Wednesday’s announcement, but said the province is still only addressing a small symptom of the larger problem of affordability.

Leader John Horgan called on Clark to launch an integrated task force to investigate money laundering, fraud and tax evasion in real estate transactions.

“Let’s get back to the root cause here and that is speculative investment money coming from offshore and distorting the marketplace,” Horgan said. “There’s no shortage of evidence that there’s a problem here, the only challenge is will the premier step up and address it?”

The B.C. government said it’s already working to deal with affordability, through measures implemented during the last budget and by pushing for more housing supply.

 

SOURCE < CTV News

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