City of Vancouver formally approves empty homes tax, outlines exemptions

A house in Vancouver. City council has formally approved a 1% empty homes tax | Shutterstock

Vancouver City Council officially approved a 1% tax on empty homes in the city November 16 and outlined the situations in which homeowners would be exempt from paying the tax.

The formal approval was expected, as Mayor Gregor Robertson had announced November 9 he was supporting the recommendation from city staff to implement the tax, which is intended to push landlords to rent out properties in an effort to deal with a severe rental housing shortage across the city.

“In Vancouver’s rental housing crisis, the City can’t afford to sit on the sidelines while more than 20,000 empty and underused homes hold back badly needed longer-term rentals,” Robertson said. “The empty homes tax won’t solve the rental crisis, but it’s one piece of the puzzle to boosting rental supply and bringing relief to renters by turning thousands of empty and underused homes into rental properties.

“In this tough housing market, it’s unacceptable for so much housing to be treated as a commodity when people are desperate for an affordable, secure place to live.”

City council listed the following eight exemptions to the 1% tax:

-  the owners use the property for at least six months per year for work within the City of Vancouver, even if they claim principal residence elsewhere;

-  the owners (or occupying family members or tenants) are undergoing medical care;

-  the owners are involved in a situation where the property ownership changed within the year;

-  the owner is deceased and a grant of probate or administration is pending;

-  the home is currently undergoing major renovations;

-  the property is subject to certain strata rental restrictions;

-  the property is under a court order that prohibits occupancy; and

-  use of the property is limited to vehicle parking or the characteristics of the property prevent the construction of a residential building.

ecrawford@biv.com

@EmmaHampelBIV