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Vancouver to review impact of empty homes tax

Condo and office towers fill the downtown skyline in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 30, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver’s empty homes tax may be generating a lot of revenue for the city, but is it making housing more affordable?

Mayor Kennedy Stewart says that’s one of the questions he’ll be asking as he reviews the effectiveness of penalties imposed against homeowners deliberately leaving properties vacant.

“It’s not to do anything other than to get information. From my understanding from talking to staff informally, that our process is working very well and it is having some impact, but I would actually like to have data to back that up,” he says.

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He adds he’s trying to make good on an election promise to boost much-needed rental stock.

“I’ll be asking staff to review and improve the fairness and effectiveness of the EHT with an eye to moving ahead with my campaign promise of getting more vacant properties on the market.”

Stewart also admits the tax may need to be fine-tuned and part of this review includes how it works with this year’s rollout of the province’s speculation tax.

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“Nobody likes paying tax and they’re not going to jump up and down saying this is fantastic, but we want to identify major issues. You know, we have been apprised of some loopholes that people have used and we’d like to perhaps close some of those. That will be discussed at council and that’s why we’re initiating the study from staff.”

Late last year, we learned revenues from the first year of the empty home’s tax would be close to $38-million with more than 2,500 of approximately 186,000 homes listed as vacant in 2017.

Feb. 4 is the deadline to submit declarations for 2018.