British Columbia

Regional District of Nanaimo wants out of B.C.'s speculation tax

Regional District of Nanaimo chair Bill Veenhof says he supports the goal of building more affordable housing but says the tax will work against the region’s efforts to develop affordable housing.

Finance Minister Carole James has defended the tax as necessary to improve affordability

A view of the City of Nanaimo. The Regional District of Nanaimo says it wants out of the announced speculation tax. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

The Regional District of Nanaimo wants the province to scrap the speculation tax.

The tax was announced in the 2018 budget and will ding homeowners in larger metropolitan areas of B.C. for any residential property that isn't their principal residence and is not rented out.

Regional district chair Bill Veenhof says he supports the goal of building more affordable housing but says the tax will work against the region's efforts to develop affordable housing.

"Our property values here will decline," Veenhof told All Points West host Jason D'Souza.

"This is real money. This is people's net worth. You drive down property prices $100,000 to $200,000, you're taking that money out of their pockets.

"I'm really quite concerned about that."

The district — which consists of Nanaimo and several surrounding communities like Lantzville, Parksville and Qualicum Beach — has been working on affordable housing already, he said, by requiring developers to include some with their projects.

He says those developers rely on out-of-province buyers to purchase their housing in order to fund the mandated affordable housing.

If developers can't get full value for the housing, Veenhof warned, they won't build the affordable housing or could build it in neighbouring regions where the tax doesn't apply.

"I think we've been really responsible in terms of building affordable housing," he said. "We're going to see development stop. That's not hypothetical."

West Kelowna has also asked to be excluded from the tax, with staff saying it could lead to increased rental costs, property tax increases, reduced property values and a loss of tourism revenue and job opportunities.

Finance Minister Carole James has defended the tax as necessary to improve affordability.

Veenhof says he has reached out to the minister and several MLAs but has not heard back.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

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