British Columbia

Vancouver property owners 'panic' to rent as vacancy tax implemented

Vancouver's empty homes tax came into effect over the weekend and some property owners are now scrambling to rent, sell or find a way around the fees.

New tax will increase number of rentals but not affordability, says property manager

The empty homes tax is intended to ease the Vancouver rental housing crunch., according to city officials. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Vancouver's empty homes tax came into effect over the weekend, causing some property owners to scramble to rent, sell or find a way around the fees, according to one property manager. 

Cameron Fazli is with Re/Max Crest Realty. He has seen a spike in calls from concerned owners looking for advice and solutions, he told CBC guest host of On The Coast Gloria Macarenko.   

"We are getting a lot of calls from people who are unsure what they are going to do," Fazli said. "There is a lot of uncertainty and definitely a lot of unhappy property owners."

Under the new rules, homes that are not occupied for at least six months of the year are subject to a tax of one per cent of the property's assessed value. The deadline to rent out empty dwellings was July 1.

Looking for ways to avoid the tax

Fazli said many of the people he has talked to are thinking of renting or selling their properties. He recently met with a woman who owns three empty properties in Vancouver — and says one of them is now listed for rent, another will be listed shortly and she is thinking of selling the third.

"This is a scenario of someone who is kind of in a panic now and needs to rent them out," he said.

Other property owners are still figuring out exactly how much of the year they spend in the property, Fazli said, and are seeing if they can find a family member to occupy enough to make it over the six month threshold.

More rentals but not cheaper

The tax, approved last November, was created in an attempt to ease pressure on the rental housing market.

Fazli said while it will lead to more housing being available because of lower vacancy rates, it won't drive down prices.

"It's going to bring more rental properties onto the market but, on the affordable aspect, I think we're going to see the properties being more on the higher end side," he said.

The previously vacant properties Fazli has seen go up for rent are ones with owners who could afford to keep them empty for the majority of the year.

"We're looking at some pretty amazing properties in Coal Harbour, some luxury homes," he said.

"I don't think it's going to create more affordable housing."

To listen to the interview with Cameron Fazli, click on the audio link below:

With files from On The Coast