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Richmond's mayor watching for impacts of Vancouver's plans for tax on vacant homes

(iStock Photo)

Malcolm Brodie wonders how you define a vacant home and how you can discover a buyer's motivations

'We're not sure how many of them are overseas,' says Richmond's mayor of owners of vacant homes in his city

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Cities across the region will be watching the effects of a tax on vacant homes in Vancouver, but will they be following suit?

The mayor of Richmond isn’t ruling out a similar scheme, but he has a few concerns.

Malcolm Brodie questions how you define a vacant property, how you monitor the situation, and how you find out the motivations of a buyer.

“It could be very clear if you know all the facts. But it’s also very easy to have unintended consequences and not know all the facts when what you see on the surface seems to be fairly clear.”

He’ll be watching to see if the tax actually makes a difference.

“I just don’t know how you’re going to impelement it. But I will look to the experience of Vancouver and we in Richmond will take a look at it once it’s farther along,” he tells us.

“Time is an issue here, as well, because the parties are wanting to do something very quickly. I don’t think something like this should be done basically as a quick reaction to a situation. I think it should be fully thought through. The consequences should be known and the details of implementation should be fully considered.”

What for the level of concern in Richmond about vacant homes, Brodie says, “we’re not sure of just how many of them are overseas or where their location is.”

“There is a concern in Richmond over vacant homes — there has been, really, for decades. And so, we can take a look at that situation and see if some kind of an alternative strategy will yield more market rental premises. But I can tell you our condominium market, in terms of new homes, is very vibrant and dynamic. And also, compared to other forms of housing, if you’re looking at condominiums, they are far more affordable than even townhomes or certainly the single family homes.”

Brodie argues Richmond has a very aggressive affordable housing strategy on new developments. But he also says you only have to look to the last year to see how much prices have risen in the city.

“And how — like everywhere else in the region — when a property comes on to the market, there are most often numerous purchasers wanting to buy it for more than the list price. So, that’s common to probably every place in the region.”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson wants the province to create a new property class that would allow cities to charge a tax. But he says if the BC government chooses not to be involved, the city will bring in a new business tax.