B.C. residents support tax on absentee homeowners: poll

The Brookhouse Residence, a large home in East Vancouver, has sat empty for several years | Dan Toulgoet

There is little data on the role speculation and foreign ownership are playing in Metro Vancouver’s housing market, and not much is known about the exact number of homes being left empty by absent owners.

But that hasn’t stopped British Columbians from developing some strong opinions on the subject. According to a poll released today from Insights West, 73% of British Columbians believe a tax on homeowners who don’t live in their properties would be a good idea.

That number rises to 77% for residents of Metro Vancouver, where prices for single detached homes have risen sharply compared to other types of residential properties, and where property prices have become increasingly decoupled from the region’s relatively modest income levels.

The poll also found that 70% of British Columbians think that the value of properties owned by current residents increases when foreign owners buy homes; the number is higher for homeowners (77%) than renters (60%).

Poll respondents of East Asian descent were more likely to think the debate around foreign ownership is inherently racist (35%), compared to 21% of poll respondents as a whole.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has suggested introducing a tax on real estate speculators who flip property. But the provincial government has so far been cool on the proposal.

The city is also looking at tracking the number of empty homes in the city through a website where residents can report homes that appear to be vacant, and has committed to study the issue further.

Insights West's online poll was conducted between May 17 and May 20, and included 825 respondents. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.