Vancouver empty homes tax to go to public consultation (POLL)

Sep 22 2016, 2:00 am

The City of Vancouver will soon begin consulting the public on its proposed empty homes tax, after council approved a report outlining potential plans for the tax on Tuesday.

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The new tax, which would only apply to properties in the City of Vancouver, could be between 0.5% and 2% of the assessed property value, says the report.

In a release, Mayor Gregor Robertson said although most of the owners of Vancouver’s estimated 10,000 empty homes will not be affected, the City needed to take action.

“The main goal of the Empty Homes Tax is to put homes back into the rental market, at a time when Vancouver’s dangerously low vacancy rate is putting renters in crisis,” he said.

Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate is currently 0.6% – a healthy level of rental housing stock is considered between 3% and 5%.

Under the City’s proposals, homeowners will be required to self declare when doing their taxes, with the following situations possibly exempt from the tax:

  • property is in probate
  • property is unfit for occupancy and undergoing major renovations with permits
  • owner or tenant is in care
  • property is undergoing change in ownership
  • property is subject to rental restrictions
  • owner or tenant uses home for most of the year (e.g. 9 of 12 months) for
    work/ study purposes, but claims principal residence elsewhere.

As well, if the rental vacancy rate increases enough, the City may reduce the empty homes tax or remove it entirely.

Public consultations on the empty homes tax will begin this fall. The City is hoping to hear not only from homeowners, but also renters struggling to find housing in Vancouver.

A final proposal will be put to council this winter, and if the new empty homes tax bylaw is approved, homeowners will be subject to the new tax from January 1, 2017.

Airbnb regulation coming too

According to the report, the City is also preparing recommendations for council to consider relating to the regulation of short term rentals, like Airbnb or Vrbo.

Currently, zoning regulations do not allow short-term rentals. Renting property for fewer than 30 days is only allowed in a licensed bed and breakfast.

However, these City rules are rarely enforced, but earlier this year, a UBC researcher found Airbnb rentals were making the rental situation in Vancouver worse.

According to Iain Marjoribanks’s findings, Airbnb makes most of its money in Vancouver from rentals of homes that no one lives in. The City says recommendations on regulating Airbnb will be outlined in a report to council later this fall and they will be “aligned” with the planned tax on empty homes.

How to have your say

The City will be launching a series of open houses around Vancouver, as well as an online survey for those who can’t make it in person.

To sign up for updates, check

Jenni SheppardJenni Sheppard

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