VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Premier John Horgan isn’t backing down from his speculation and vacant home tax, despite widespread criticism from homeowners, even from some of his closest allies.
Horgan is brushing off complaints about the new speculation and vacant homes tax which labels everyone who owns a home as a speculators — unless they declare otherwise. All homeowners in B.C.’s largest urban centres will need to apply for exemptions from the province’s new speculation tax or receive a bill, whether they are speculators or not, the government announced on Tuesday. The tax is calculated at rates of 0.5 per cent, one per cent or two per cent of assessed value of homes, with the highest rate applied to foreign owners.
Homeowners have expressed frustration over having to fill out the forms, which are being sent out this month, with a deadline to file at the end of March. The Liberals, and even B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, are criticizing the program, saying it is confusing and leaves the possibility open that some will pay when they don’t have to.
The other parties say it’s unfair to make homeowners prove they aren’t speculators by filling out a form every year, but Horgan says there’s no workable alternative.
“The Liberals and the Greens are making a ‘tempest in a teapot.’ I am confident that people will be quite happy to tick a box saying ‘I do not speculate in the real estate market,’ and go out and find those that are, and go out and make them pay the cost,” he says.
But Horgan says there’s no other way to catch speculators.
“I fill out an income tax form every year, it takes more than 10 minutes, and I haven’t complained about that. This is an additional activity to protect our housing sector,” he says. “The other argument is: ‘dear speculator, please identify yourself,’ and I’m not confident that’s the most effective way to identify speculation.”
Horgan says he’ll know the tax is working when young people can afford homes, but wasn’t so clear on how the province will make sure everyone is being honest of their forms and how much rental stock this will put on the market.
– With files from the Canadian Press