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Vancouver introduces Empty Homes Tax framework as rental housing crisis persists

November 9 2016 Empty Homes Tax aims to boost long-term rentals as City faces lowest rental vacancy rate and highest rents in Canada; will be implemented for 2017 tax year if approved

"The City won’t sit on the sidelines while over 20,000 empty and under-occupied properties hold back homes for renters struggling to find an affordable and secure place to live,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. 

Empty room
 

Vancouver will have an Empty Homes Tax in place by effective January 1, 2017, with staff reporting on the Tax’s next steps to Council on Tuesday.

Targeting the known 10,800 year-round empty and roughly 10,000 more under-occupied homes in Vancouver, staff are recommending that all non-principal residences (except those qualifying for an exemption) which are unoccupied for six full months of the year or more will be subject to a 1%  Empty Homes Tax. Vacant residential land will also be subject to the Tax.

“Vancouver is in a rental housing crisis. The City won’t sit on the sidelines while over 20,000 empty and under-occupied properties hold back homes for renters struggling to find an affordable and secure place to live,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “In a rental housing crisis, it’s unacceptable for so much housing to be treated as a commodity when people are desperate for an affordable, secure place to live. Housing is for homes first, and as investments second.”

Who won't be subject to the tax

Most Vancouver homeowners, including snowbirds, will not be subject to the Empty Homes Tax. Principal residences will not be charged the Empty Homes Tax, nor will properties that are rented long-term (with a tenancy agreement), or for at least 30 days in a row for a minimum of six months in aggregate over the course of a year. For example, a homeowner renting their investment property for six 30-day terms throughout the year will be exempt from the tax, even if those six 30-day terms are not consecutive. 

How the tax was determined

The 1% Empty Homes Tax rate was determined through consultation with industry experts and the public. Applying a 1% tax in addition to existing property tax aligns with current business property taxes, reinforcing the principle that housing used as a business will be taxed as such – particularly as Vancouver grapples with a housing affordability crisis.

Tax exemptions

Through public and stakeholder consultation, staff have confirmed exemptions for the Empty Homes Tax, including:

  • The property is undergoing major renovations, or is under construction or redevelopment (with permits).
  • The registered owner (or other occupier) is undergoing medical or supportive care.
  • The owner is deceased and grant of probate or administration is pending.
  • Ownership of the property changed during the previous year.
  • The property is subject to existing strata rental restrictions.
  • The registered owner uses the property for six months of the year for work purposes but claims principal residence elsewhere.
  • The property is under a court order prohibiting occupancy.
  • The property is limited to vehicle parking or the size, shape or inherent limitation such that a residential building cannot be constructed.

Consultation

Earlier this fall, Council approved the Empty Homes Tax framework with the goal of putting homes back into the long-term rental market. Over the last month, we have been consulting the public and stakeholders on the final details of the tax, collecting over 10,000 responses through Talk Vancouver, public open houses, and email correspondence.

Steps we have taken to tackle the housing crisis

Since 2012, we have enabled over 12,000 affordable homes. The Empty Homes Tax is the latest in a series of steps Council has taken to tackle Vancouver’s housing crisis, such as:

  • Directing staff to bring forward steps to regulate short-term rentals, like Airbnb, this fall
  • Pursuing modular housing on city-owned sites for temporary affordable housing
  • Offering 20 sites of City-owned land worth $250 million to senior governments to use for affordable housing
  • Calling for both a speculation tax and a luxury sales tax to create a more level playing field in the housing market
  • Increasing family home requirements in new housing projects to 35%
  • Providing four City-owned sites to enable Vancouver’s first Community Land Trust

 

Source from: City of Vancouver 

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