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Vancouver passes empty homes tax

Last Updated Nov 16, 2016 at 10:42 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

A one per cent levy on empty homes in Vancouver will begin early 2017 with the first payment due in 2018

Vancouver's new empty homes tax is the first of its kind in Canada

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – City Council has voted in favour of bringing in a one per cent tax on empty homes in a bid to alleviate the city’s crunched rental housing market.

The tax will apply to non-principal residences that are left empty for six months of the year or longer.

Homeowners will be required to self-declare vacant properties and could be subject to fines up to $10,000 for a false report.

Properties under renovation, owners who are in hospital and condos with strata rental restrictions will all be exempt from the tax.

Mayor Gregor Robertson has been a supporter of the levy.

“There is an appeal process that people can pursue whether or not the tax applies, and there a whole bunch of exemptions,” Robertson says.

“The fact is these are second of third homes so it’s difficult to see how hardship applies if you own multiple homes in Vancouver.”

Councillor Heather Deal says exemptions to the tax cover most hardship cases.

“If there are other exemptions out there that should have, we can add them,” she said while arguing for the tax at Wednesday’s council meeting and vote.

Eight city councilors voted in favour of the tax, while three were opposed.

NPA Councillor Melissa De Genova says enforcement officers are already dealing with marijuana dispensaries, and short-term rentals.

“Now they have three times the workload because Vision Vancouver has decided that they want to create a snitch city, where it’s all about ratting out your neighbours and paying these taxes,” she said while speaking to reporters after the tax decision.

“I actually think that this is going to hurt our economy, it’s not going to increase rental stock.”

De Genova says she will know she was right if Vancouver’s vacancy rate does not improve to 3 to 5 percent in a year.

Councillors also directed city staff to work with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and other organizations to collect data on possible impacts of the tax and report back next year.

The mayor posted the following video online shortly after the vote: