Another Useless Tax

Pursuant to the “Empty Homes Tax,” Vancouver homeowners are now required to declare whether or not their properties are rented. This new vacancy tax is just another unwarranted by government on private property owners’ rights.

The supposed “justification” for the tax according to the city of Vancouver’s website, is to:

  • Return empty or under-utilized properties to use as long-term rental homes for people who live and work in Vancouver
  • Help relieve pressure on Vancouver’s rental housing market, as our city has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates and the highest rental costs in Canada

With all due respect, this rationale is laughable.

First, there is a substantial list of exemptions to the tax and plenty of loopholes.

Second, as the property need only be rented for 6 months a year, I am not sure how this encourages “long term” rental accommodation. How many people want to rent for just 6 months or less and then have to move?

Third, the tax creates yet another level of bureaucracy on Vancouverites who already have to put up with a plethora of municipal, provincial and federal laws and regulations. To pay for this nonsense significant fines and penalties could be levied on top of the 1% tax on the assessed value of the empty property.

Fourth, the ingenuity of government to invent new taxes never ceases to amaze. Income tax, capital gains tax, property tax, GVRD tax, Property Transfer Tax, payroll tax, carbon tax, GST, provincial sales tax, probate tax (yes it’s a tax not a user fee) and now an Empty Homes Tax!!! If politicians could govern half as well as they can come up with new ways to pick taxpayers’ pockets we would have few problems in society.

Fifth, after doing literally nothing for the past 15 years to deal with housing and rental affordability in metro Vancouver (even denying that foreign money was driving up real estate prices –which of course forced more people to rent), as usual the government is trying to close the barn door years after the horses have left.

Lastly, even if all 21,000 supposedly empty homes in Vancouver were rented out because of this tax, there are some 40,000 new arrivals in the metro-Vancouver area EVERY YEAR – 9 or 10 who arrive from outside the country, so even putting the best possible spin on this vacant homes tax, it’s a band aid solution at best.

IS THERE A SOLUTION?

Much larger urban centers like New York and London have proven that cities cannot simply build their way to affordability no matter how many towers they put up. The end result is an over-crowded, congested, less livable mega-city which is still unaffordable to most.

Heretical as it may seem to some, perhaps it’s time to actually listen to the residents of Vancouver who mostly think that there are PLENTY OF PEOPLE LIVING HERE ALREADY! 9 out of 10 people think we have enough!

However, the “democratic deficit” (to borrow a phrase from Noam Chomsky), is alive and well in BC, so what the majority of people may want is often of no concern to those who govern.

Disclaimer:  The foregoing is for information purposes only and not intended as legal advice to the reader.  Always consult with an experienced real estate lawyer when modifying the standard real estate contract in use in BC. In addition statutory law as well as case law may change from time to time which could render this analysis inaccurate in the future. 

(C) 2018 Pazder Law Corporation