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Homeowners criticize empty homes tax

(Courtesy City of Vancouver)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The City of Vancouver has been gathering feedback on the idea of an empty homes tax to encourage more owners to rent out their properties.

The last of two open house sessions wrapped up Monday night with an online survey to remain open until Tuesday.

Some homeowners say the tax would not help the rental market and would hurt property owners who live locally.

One woman at the open house tells NEWS 1130 she owns a home in Vancouver but already has trouble paying the property tax as she now lives outside the city to care for her parents.

“If it’s a family that has chosen to invest their money, and live in the city and pay their taxes and have been here for 60 years or more, I don’t know why they should be now under this duress,” she says.

“I have to go out of town for that so it’s like what, so now you’re going to have neighbours spying on your comings and goings? Is that the kind of community that we really want to have? People will see if your car has been moved for a month or not or if you’re going on holidays.”

She says taxing locals won’t help the housing crisis and she would like to see this kind of tax focused on large foreign investors.

The tax would have several exemptions including owners who rent out their homes or who have family living full time in the home.

Other potential exemptions include:

  • Owner was recently deceased and estate is in probate
  • Home was undergoing major renovations with permits
  • Owner was in residential care
  • Property underwent a change in ownership
  • Property was in a strata subject to rental restrictions
  • Owner or tenant used home for the majority of the year for work or study purposes, but claims principal residence elsewhere”


Trai Mak, a homeowner with multiple properties, says an empty homes tax would not help the rental supply.

“Some of the homes are really, really expensive.  How can it be available for affordable rental? Now if they put it out in the market, do they have tenants who will rent that kind of home for $5,000 a month?”

City council is expected to address the property tax, which could be as high as 2 per cent, at a November 15 meeting.