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B.C.'s speculation, vacant homes tax working: province

Last Updated Sep 12, 2019 at 2:26 pm PDT

FILE: Condos and apartment buildings are seen in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday February 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Almost 12,000 British Columbians have had to pay the tax

The provincial government says it will use the revenue to fund affordable housing

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The British Columbia government says the new tax targeting speculators and vacant homes is working.

The numbers from the first year are in and so far, Finance Minister Carole James says she is pleased with what’s happening.

“The tax is working as we intended,” James says.

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Almost 12,000 British Columbians have had to pay the tax, and the province is currently seeing a moderation in home prices.

1.6 million people completed declarations for their properties, leaving about 17,000 outstanding. 99.8 per cent of the population has not had to pay the tax, which James says is precisely what the government projected.

While the tax brought in $58 million in 2018 – $50 million of which is from Metro Vancouver – James says that’s not the point.

“This isn’t in the budget to make a great deal of money. It’s in the budget to make sure that we address the challenges we face in affordable housing.”

But while real estate prices have moderated over the last year, she concedes it can’t necessarily be attributed to this tax.

James says there is not one fix to affordability and that’s why the NDP government brought in its 30-point housing plan. She says there is also an audit process underway to ensure people have been honest and accurate on their home declarations.

Critics of the tax argue it stifles development and punishes homeowners with second properties, so James intends to meet with mayors of affected communities later today to discuss potential changes.

The tax is aimed at easing tight vacancy rates and applies to homes in and around Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and Kelowna that are not occupied or rented.

Next year the total is expected to increase to $185 million. The government says it will use the revenue to fund affordable housing.

With files from the Canadian Press