British Columbia

Empty home tax coming to Vancouver

Mayor Gregor Robertson has announced Vancouver will start looking at ways to tax empty homes as the affordability crisis grows larger and rental vacancy rates shrinks to unprecedented lows.

"Vancouver housing is first and foremost for homes, not a commodity to make money with."

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announces the city will move ahead with plans to implement a tax on empty homes. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

Mayor Gregor Robertson has announced Vancouver will move forward on taxing empty homes as the affordability crisis grows larger and rental vacancy rates shrink to unprecedented lows.

"Vancouver housing is first and foremost for homes, not a commodity to make money with," he said. "We need a tax on empty homes to encourage the best use of all our housing, and help boost our rental supply at a time when there's almost no vacancy and a real crunch on affordability."

A preliminary report recommends Vancouver work in concert with the B.C. government to come up with a scheme to tax empty homes, but it says "the City is prepared to take action on its own in absence of provincial response."

Robertson said he wrote Premier Christy Clark last year asking for the province to support a speculation tax but hasn't heard back. 

The city's report states the preferred option is for the provincial government to create and administer a new class of "residential vacant" property through BC Assessment. The designation would trigger the city to charge extra taxes on empty or under-occupied investment properties.

The second option is for the city to establish a new business tax for empty and under-occupied homes held as investment properties. 

Premier Clark responded on twitter saying "We are reviewing your report and will respond quickly."

The current rental vacancy rate in Vancouver 0.6 per cent.  A city-commissioned report in March estimated there are 10,800 homes and condos sitting empty in Vancouver, though the rate of empty homes has remained flat over the past 14 years and is in line with other Canadian cities.  It's thought a high percentage of the homes that do remain empty are owned by foreign investors who do not live in or rent the units.

"We'll continue to pursue all possible options at city hall to create opportunities for people struggling to find home in Vancouver." said Robertson.

With files from Farrah Merali

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