Vancouver warns homeowners to fill in forms on empty homes tax or risk fine

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is warning homeowners if they fail to declare their property status by Feb. 2, they will face the city's empty homes tax plus a $250 fine.

Tax affects any property that is not a principal residence and is not occupied for 6 months a year

A neighbourhood full of single family homes near Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is warning homeowners if they fail to declare their property status by Feb. 2, they will face the city's new empty homes tax plus a $250 fine.

The tax is one per cent of a home's assessed value.

It affects any property that is not a principal residence and is not occupied for six months a year, though there are several exemptions, which can be read here.

"Almost all homeowners in Vancouver will not be affected by the empty homes tax ... but we know there are thousands sitting empty right now," said Robertson.

Robertson says property owners can expect to receive instructions in the mail starting this week on how to make their declarations.

They can be filled out online or at city hall, and the city will also have staff at libraries to help people complete the declaration on public computers. 

There is a $10,000 fine for false declarations, and the city is in the process of setting up an enforcement system that will include hiring staff in the new year.

"We'll be looking at random sampling, as well as if there's any targeted areas, based on risk analysis, that should be audited," said Patrice Impey, the city's general manager of finance.

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada and is aimed at freeing up as many units for rent. The city's vacancy rate was most recently measured at 0.7 per cent. 

"As long at it's low as is it is right now ... we need to do everything we can do get rental housing available for people who live and work in Vancouver," said Robertson. 

Based on recent census figures, it's believed there an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 homes in Vancouver that meet the city's threshold for the tax. 

The city has budgeted $7.5 million to implement the plan.  

 

With files from Justin McElroy