Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he plans to seek input from the public on which affordable housing projects or initiatives they would like to see funded through the net proceeds raised by the Empty Homes Tax.
“Vancouver is the first city in North America to bring in a tax on empty homes, and we should hear directly from Vancouver residents on how they’d like to see the money spent on affordable housing projects,” said Robertson. “Our main goal is to make sure that people who want to put down roots here in our city have secure and affordable housing options.”
The motion asks staff to consult with the public on the allocation of Empty Homes Tax revenue, prior to a report coming back to Council with recommendations.
Under the city’s bylaw, revenue from the tax is to go towards affordable housing initiatives.
“There are lots of different ways the Empty Homes Tax revenue could be allocated,” said the Mayor. “We could keep our winter shelters open longer. It could increase the funds for the rent bank. It could go towards buying new land for affordable housing.”
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All-in-all, Robertson said he is sure “people have lots of opinions on how the revenue gets allocated.”
This, he explained, “is why I want to make sure the public has an opportunity to weigh in before council makes a decision.”
The deadline for homeowners to pay the Empty Homes Tax is April 16, 2018.
As this was the first year of implementation of the tax, the city said the findings from these declarations provide an important baseline for the city to compare all future results and better understand how the tax is influencing the behaviours of property owners.
There were 177,562 occupied residential properties (declared principal residence and declared tenanted), 8,481 unoccupied/under-utilized residential properties (declared vacant, declared exempt and undeclared/deemed vacant), and 2,132 undeclared residential properties, as a result of this process.
A total of 8,481 residential properties were declared or deemed to be unoccupied/under-utilized for more than 180 days in 2017.
This figure not only includes properties that were declared vacant, but also properties that claimed one of the various exemptions to the tax.
Properties can be eligible for an exemption based on a number of reasons, including if the property was undergoing renovation or redevelopment, title transferred during the year, or the owner was residing in a hospital, long-term or supportive care facility.
More information about the Empty Homes Tax and the public engagement process is available online.