How should the City of Vancouver spend $20 million dollars? That’s the net revenue (after factoring in $10 million in setup and operating costs) generated by North America’s first Empty Homes Tax (EHT) implemented at the beginning of the year, to address the current housing crisis.
Properties left empty or underutilized are subject to a one per cent tax based on the assessed value. Those that are principal residences or used for rental purposes a minimum of six months out of the year are exempt, but for 2018 owners had to submit a status declaration by Feb. 4. Failure to do results in the appropriate tax plus a $250 penalty levied against the offender.
“We brought in the Empty Homes Tax because we want to ensure that housing is for homes first, not just treated as a commodity,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “With a near-zero vacancy rate, we can’t have homes sitting empty while people who want to live and work in our city are struggling to find a place to rent.”
“Our hope was that the tax would be an incentive for owners to rent out their homes that are empty for most of the year. For those who didn’t make their empty home available for rent, they have made — or will be making — a welcome contribution to Vancouver’s affordable housing programs.”
Local government launched a site on April 26 to solicit citizen ideas on what to do with the extra money. Running until May 17, so far 125 submissions have been received: the top three are supporting additional co-op housing, increasing purpose-built rental accommodations and buying more land for affordable housing.
Some notable statistics from the EHT include a total of 183,911 declarations sent in, accounting for 98.85 per cent of all residential property owners in Vancouver; just under 8,500 properties were deemed unoccupied or underutilized; and tax payments ranged between $1,500 and $250,000, the median being $9,900.