Vancouver's empty homes tax to pull in $30M

Vancouver's empty homes tax will generate $30 million in its first year, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced Monday.

About 3,300 homes have been hit with a median tax of $9,900

Vancouver's empty homes tax was brought in to discourage property investors and speculators from keeping unoccupied homes. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Vancouver's empty homes tax will generate an estimated $30 million for affordable housing in its first year, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced Monday.

The highest tax paid was $250,000 for one home, while the median amount of tax paid was $9,900, Robertson said at city hall.

"For those who did not rent their property and chose to pay the empty homes tax, I just want to say thank you for contributing to Vancouver affordable housing funding," said the mayor.

Of about 183,000 registered residential homes in the city, only 3,300 properties were subject to the tax.

Another 5,200 empty or unoccupied homes were exempt, because they were either having title transferred, under renovation or redevelopment, restricted from rentals under strata rules, the owner had recently died, or they were being used for work in Vancouver.

Of the homes declared vacant by their owners, 56 per cent were in downtown Vancouver or the West End.

"For those who did rent their homes, thank you very much for adding to the rental housing supply here in Vancouver," he said.

A lack of accurate and timely statistics means it is difficult to say exactly how many homes were rented out to avoid the tax and how much that affected the city's extremely low vacancy rate he said.

"We have seen the vacancy rate creep up in these last few years, but we are still at 0.8 per cent according to CMHC, which is far too low," said Robertson.

Thousands getting audited still

Meanwhile city staff are still auditing the status of several thousand homes and Robertson said it is expected the revenue from the tax will increase as those are resolved.

So far, $17 million has already been collected, with those who are late facing a fine of $250 plus five per cent of the unpaid tax.

The new tax was introduced as a way to help address one component of the city's housing crisis by encouraging owners to put their empty homes on the rental market.

"It is unacceptable to have so many homes sit empty in Vancouver, while so many people are looking for a place to live and particularly trying to find a place to rent," said Robertson.

It will cost the city about $7.5 million to set up the tax and $2.5 million to administer it each year, The rest of the money collected will be used to create affordable housing, said the mayor.

Exactly how it will be spent will determined after a public consultation process to be announced in the coming days.

Owners had to declare by Feb. 2 whether their properties were lived in for more than half a year. Those with underused properties or who fail to declare are charged the additional tax of one per cent of the assessed value of the property.

For a property assessed at $1 million, that's an extra $10,000 in tax per year. Some exemptions apply, including for properties undergoing construction or renovation.

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