Albertans who own vacation properties in B.C. face new tax

Albertans with secondary properties in some parts of B.C. are facing a tax hike.

B.C. budget introduced 2% tax on empty properties in Lower Mainland, Kelowna, Victoria and Nanaimo

Albertans who own property in Kelowna but don't pay tax in that province will be hit with a two per cent speculation tax beginning in 2019. (City of Kelowna)

Albertans with secondary properties in some parts of British Columbia are facing a tax hike.

The B.C. government announced a new levy in its budget this week aimed at property owners who don't pay taxes in the province and leave homes empty.

By 2019, the speculation tax rate will be two per cent of the assessed value and will include properties in the Lower Mainland, Victoria, Nanaimo and Kelowna.

It's difficult to put an exact number on how many Albertans own real estate in those areas.

According to the Okanagan Real Estate Board, Albertans made up 10.2 per cent of buyers last year in that region — which includes Kelowna.

Cameron Muir, chief economist with the B.C. Real Estate Association, says the new tax could make potential buyers look elsewhere.

"Obviously that's going to impact future sales in those regions as Albertans will likely look for adjoining regions that aren't subject to the tax," he said.

"It could possibly act as a red flag for many recreation buyers from other parts of Canada in terms of their commitments to buy recreational property in areas of British Columbia."

The B.C. government says non-residents are driving up property prices and depleting the rental market.

But Anne McMullin, president of the Vancouver-based Urban Development Institute, isn't so sure.

"The real estate construction industry is a major part of the Kelowna-Okanagan economy," she said.

"I don't think curbing the sale of vacation homes to people in Alberta addresses the housing affordability issue in the Lower Mainland."

With files from Andrew Brown