'The hypocrisy is glaring': as Vancouver rolls out empty homes tax, city-owned house remains vacant

The empty homes tax is supposed to motivate homeowners to rent out their empty properties, but who's motivating the city when it comes to its empty Trout Lake home?

House near Trout Lake has sat empty for 2 years

The house at 3030 Victoria Drive has been empty for two years but won't be subjected to the empty homes tax because it is owned by the city. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Vancouver's empty homes tax is supposed to tackle one element of the housing crisis by motivating property owners to rent out their empty homes.

But Samantha Reynolds can't help but wonder what it will take to motivate the City of Vancouver itself to rent out an empty home it owns which has sat vacant for two years.

"It was so ironic when we got our empty homes tax notice in the mail with the language, 'what's a home without people,'" said Reynolds, who lives two doors down.

"I thought, wow, the hypocrisy is glaring." 

Promise made

Last July, the city appeared to give in to public pressure over the house at 3030 Victoria Dr., announcing it would be rented out on a five-year lease, rather than left to sit empty.

Six months on, it appears little has been done to follow through on the promise.

Reynolds says the City of Vancouver language around empty homes is the height of hypocrisy. (CBC)

"The city is in the process of issuing a RFP for interested co-op housing operators to take on a lease and to find tenants to house," said a statement sent to CBC News from a city spokesman.

The house was purchased by the city in February 2016 as part of a bungled attempt to expand John Hendry Park — more commonly known as Trout Lake.

Together, the city and park board planned to buy and demolish all eight homes on the block, but things went sideways when no one else in the block agreed to sell.

The house at 3030 Victoria Drive was built in 1919 and was beautifully restored before it was sold to the city for $1.5 million in January of 2016. (Tyrone Robinson & Associates Real Estate)

Reynolds says it is both disrespectful and baffling that the home remains vacant, just as the city moves to penalize owners of other empty homes with the new tax. 

"I agree with the empty homes tax. I just think the city should be held to the same standard. They spend so much time talking about the need for ... rental stock, but their actions in our case are not so reflective of their words."

According to B.C. Assessment, the property is worth $1,589,500 as of July 2017, a decrease in value of almost $108,000 from the previous year.

In the hands of a private owner, it would be subjected to an empty homes tax of one per cent or $15,895. City owned properties, however, are exempt from the tax.

Drag on the neighbourhood

Reynolds says besides the junk mail piling up at 3030 Victoria Dr., as time goes on, the house is becoming a drag on the tight-knit neighbourhood.

Last winter, the house suffered water damage after pipes froze and burst during the frigid winter. The city neglected to turn off the water. (Christer Waara/CBC)

"We want a family in that home," she said. "I'd love for my kids to have neighbour kids they could run down the block and play with, not an empty home."

Last winter, the house suffered water damage due to frozen and burst pipes caused by the water not being turned off.

In its statement, the city says a condition of the yet-to-be released RFP is that the operator agree to complete necessary repairs.

Empty homes tax declarations are due today.

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