Vancouver city staff have unveiled a proposal for a one per cent tax on empty homes that would become the first of its kind in Canada, if approved by city council.

The proposal would require all homeowners in the city to self-declare whether a property is their principal residence — meaning the usual place they call home — where they receive mail and file their taxes.

Those that aren't principal residences and aren't rented out or exempted for other reasons would be taxed one per cent of the assessed value.

That means a $1-million home would be taxed $10,000.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the aim of the tax is not to raise revenue, but rather to encourage owners to rent out their properties in a city with the lowest rental vacancy rate and among the highest rents in Canada.

The proposal is set to go before council next week and staff hope to have the tax in place for the 2017 year, with the first payments in 2018.

It will cost $4.7 million through the end of 2018 to set up the tax, with an annual cost of $1.5 million after that, but the city expects tax revenue to cover the costs, with some money left over for affordable housing initiatives.