Green MLA wants government to introduce vacancy tax on P.E.I.

A Green MLA wants the province to introduce a vacancy tax on P.E.I. in an effort to create more housing options on the Island.

Michele Beaton says a vacancy tax would discourage people from speculation buying

Green MLA Michele Beaton says a similar type of tax has been implemented in British Columbia as a tool to help turn vacant properties into rentals. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A Green MLA wants government to introduce a vacancy tax on P.E.I. in an effort to create more housing options on the Island.

Michele Beaton said the Green Party first called on government to implement a vacancy tax last year and asked government for an update on its progress in the legislature Thursday.

Beaton told CBC News a vacancy tax would be applied to non-primary and non-seasonal residences. She said the tax would discourage people from speculation buying, or accumulating housing without people living in the properties. She said a the tax can serve as a tool to ensure secondary, non-seasonal residences on P.E.I. are used for housing. 

"Which is important because given that we're in a housing crisis it's important that people are living in the housing inventory that we have currently," Beaton said. 

She said the Opposition proposes that additional revenue earned from a vacancy tax be re-invested into affordable housing options for Islanders.

Beaton says the Opposition called on government to implement a vacancy tax last year. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.)

Beaton said a similar tax was introduced in British Columbia in late 2018. That province's speculation and vacancy tax targets homes in the most populated areas of B.C. that are not declared as a primary residence or are not rented out for at least three months a year. 

The tax was introduced to prevent housing speculation in B.C.'s overheated real estate market and help turn vacant or underutilized properties into rentals. Homeowners who live at their properties — or rent them out — are exempt.

During question period in the legislature, Beaton asked Finance Minister Darlene Compton for more details about what government has done on the issue here.

"Can the minister please advise the house on the progress of working toward implementing a vacancy tax?" Beaton asked. 

'It's a complex story'

Compton said a vacancy tax is something she's been pushing for within government, but more work needs to be done to figure out how the tax could be implemented in the province.

'It's something that I have definitely been pushing with this government,' says Finance Minister Darlene Compton. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.)

"That is definitely something we've been looking at, we're not there yet," Compton said.

Compton said she wants to make sure that if and when the tax is introduced it's applied to properties appropriately and the department is working to determine what kind of properties a vacancy tax would apply to. 

"It's a complex story as to who lives here and who doesn't and how long they live here so it's something that the tax department is looking at, property tax is looking at and will continue to do so." 

Beaton said it's been a year since the idea was presented to government and she would have liked to have more details by now. 

More P.E.I. news

With files from Kerry Campbell


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