Vacancy tax proposed for vacant homeowners

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

All levels of government address Vancouver’s housing crisis

By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor

Those looking to buy property in Vancouver and surrounding municipalities have been disappointed to find that even the most lacklustre of homes come with a price tag of over one million dollars. Prospective homeowners face yet another bout of disappointment when many of those wealthy enough to afford to buy Vancouver property often leave it vacant.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is hoping to combat the rising costs of owning property. Robertson announced in mid-June that the city is planning on taxing vacant homeowners.

City council is hoping to receive a response from the provincial government on the matter by the end of July.

“We would love to have thousands of those homes in the rental market right now when there’s almost no vacancy and a real crunch on affordable housing,” Robertson said to the Globe and Mail. “We’d like to see more supply created from the empty homes that are just sitting there in the city.”

Local mayors have, in the past, recommended increasing the number of rental units in their cities, including New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté. However, it provides only a temporary solution to a larger problem.

Still, Robertson’s proposition has caught the attention of the provincial government, who have been being called to action over the issue for years.

BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong told the Globe and Mail that the province will examine the plan that Robertson and his staff conceptualize, and make a decision from there.

“I’ll be the first to say to you, candidly, I have been conscious, the government has been conscious, about drawing on taxation authority to address the housing challenges,” said de Jong.

According to Global News, if city council hears no response from the provincial government by the end of July (when the city councillors go on break for the summer), they will be taking matters into their own hands and proceeding with implementing the tax upon their return.

Robertson’s suddenly aggressive approach to taxation has been raising some concern within City Hall.

Melissa De Genova, a member of the Non-Partisan Association Party who works with the council, tells the Globe and Mail that, while she supports the idea, she has doubts about the tight timeline it has been placed on.

“This is a huge issue. It’s an issue that needs to be approached cautiously. We need to consider the ramifications. If the mayor is fired up and ready to go, I question why he hadn’t moved forward on this sooner.”