Vancouver real estate: Empty homes report presented at council

The report to city council will provide more data for the ongoing debate about the city's hot housing market — and what to do about it.

Province says taxing empty homes not an appropriate solution for high housing prices

Vancouver city councillors will be presented with information regarding empty homes in the city. (Canadian Press)

A report on empty homes in Vancouver is being presented at city council this morning.

The city and policy analysts have long argued more data is needed to determine the cause of the region's hot housing market — an argument the provincial government recently said it agrees with. 

The report on Vacant Housing Units Research is being presented at council by Matt Bourke, a housing planner with the city, and Bruce Townson, CEO of Ecotagious, a company that analyzes home energy use. 

The city's chief housing officer, Mukhtar Latif, has previously said that BC Hydro usage data could be examined to determine which homes are sitting empty. However, he also warned there could be many reasons why homes are unoccupied.

Empty home tax?

But while the city may be considering taxing empty homes, B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman says an automatic tax for empty homes isn't appropriate.

He noted three houses on his street in Langley are empty all winter because their owners are "snowbirds" who go south for five or six months.

"The argument on one side is they are still paying taxes without receiving the services and getting a homeowners grant," said Coleman.

NDP housing critic David Eby says there are changes the province could implement now to help soften housing prices. 

"There are solutions out there that are being put forward by very smart people, and unfortunately there is still a debate happening about whether properties are being used as investments," he said.

Coleman said the B.C. government will look at the city's report and other information before making any policy changes.

Eby said he expects the province will take at least a year analysing data before making a move.

With files from Richard Zussman

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