Meena Wong, a Vancouver mayoral candidate, is proposing to charge a fee to absentee property owners who don't live in residences or rent them out, in order to fight the city's housing shortage.

The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) candidate says far too many properties are sitting vacant, and some sort of penalty is needed to help make housing in the city more accessible and affordable.

Past estimates have suggested 25 per cent of condos in downtown Vancouver sit empty, while rents and real estate prices are among the highest in the country.

Wong says absentee owners need to be more responsible to the city and become part of a solution to make housing more accessible.

"It's unacceptable that empty properties are out there, in the city facing such crisis on affordability on housing," said Wong.

Wong has not provided details on how much the surcharge would be or how it would be enforced.

Critics say the charge would be difficult to enforce, but Wong still wants a database to determine how homeowners are using their properties, if at all.

"If they're not going to occupy it and then rent it out, then pay more so we can use those monies to build and develop affordable housing here," she said.

The idea of making absentee homeowners pay more has come up before in Metro Vancouver. In 2012 a controversial article in the South China Morning Post by Vancouver correspondent Ian Young raised the issue.

Other local housing activists have also advocated for some sort of tax or fee to crack down on property speculation.

Municipal elections will be held across B.C. on Nov. 15 for local mayors and city councils.

With files from Greg Rasmussen and Chad Pawson