Vancouver's Empty Homes Tax has collected almost $40 million

Nov 20 2019, 4:25 pm

Since it was launched in 2016, the City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax (EHT) program has created $39.7 million in net revenue to fund affordable housing initiatives, officials said on Wednesday.

“The main objective of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax is to influence property owners to put their empty properties on the rental market, and the data shows that is happening,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

The 2018 Empty Homes Tax Annual Report, released today, shows there were 22% fewer vacant residences in 2018 compared to 2017, and the number of properties declared “tenanted” went up by 7% year over year. These two indicators are tracked every year in the annual report to monitor the impact of the tax.

According to the city, three key affordable housing initiatives are being funded by EHT revenue. These include the following:

  • $17 million towards the 2019-2022 Community Housing Incentive Program just approved by Council that will provide grants to housing providers to deepen affordability of social and co-op housing.
  • The $3.8 million purchase of Ross House, a single-room occupancy building with 24 rooms in the Downtown Eastside.
  • Additional programs and support services (totalling $5.83 million) to increase advocacy and support for renters, including funding to the Rent Bank, establishment of a renters enquiry line, grants to non-profits that advocate for renters, and development of a Renter Centre that will centralize support resources.

“For those who choose to keep their properties unoccupied, we appreciate their contributions to the funds that are supporting various, much-needed affordable housing initiatives across the city,” said Stewart.

“From securing safe, warm homes in the Downtown Eastside, to increasing support for renters and providing grants to non-profit housing providers, lives are being changed by the revenue generated from the Empty Homes Tax,” said Sandra Singh, the city’s general manager of Arts, Culture, and Community Services.

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Now, in a report going before council on November 26, staff have proposed some changes to the bylaw, including extending the timeframe for property owners to submit a complaint to 90 days.

If approved, each of the bylaw changes would come into effect for the reference years specified in the bylaw.

Staff have also recommended a new exemption where, in certain circumstances, development and tenancy exemptions can be combined to meet the six-month threshold.

The City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax is separate from the provincial government’s Speculation and Vacancy Tax.