British Columbia

Comox Valley residents voting on tax to help the homeless

The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is taking an unusual step to try to solve homelessness.

The property tax on residences and businesses would go towards local non-profit organizations

There are about 250 people living on the streets in the Comox Valley, say local advocates for the homeless. (CBC)

The Comox Valley Regional District on Vancouver Island is holding a referendum on a new property tax that would help people living on the streets. 

The referendum will take place on Nov. 28 and will ask voters if they want to pay an extra tax of $0.02 per $1,000 of assessed property value — $6 per year for a $300,000 home or business.

The money will go towards local non-profit organizations to address homelessness in the area, which includes Courtenay, Cumberland, and electoral areas A (excluding Denman and Hornby Islands), B and C.

Social agencies in the Comox Valley say about 250 people are living on the streets, and about 3,000 more are at risk of becoming homeless.

"They have no where else to go," said Heather Ney with the Comox Valley Transition Society.

"They can't find market rental housing that's affordable to them, and often that forces them into homelessness."

Lorraine Copas with the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. says many smaller cities and towns are struggling with growing homeless populations, and taking local action could help attract funds from higher levels of government.

"This is quite innovative to be holding this kind of referendum. It's likely to say that we want to be a partner, that we're doing everything that we can."


  • A previous version of this story gave the incorrect date for the referendum. In fact is Nov. 28.
    Nov 18, 2015 12:07 PM PT

With files from Megan Thomas