The Vancouver Empty Homes Tax isn’t helping housing affordability; facing legal challenges

The Vancouver Empty Homes Tax proves to be a continuing cash cow, despite its limited success in driving more rentals into the market.

Originally, the city’s flawed analysis of census data suggested that as many as 25,000 homes were vacant in Vancouver and thus, forcing those homes into the rental pool would have a significant effect on affordability.

As it turned out, the city’s data was wrong by a factor of ten, meaning only about 2,500 units were vacant.

Undeterred, the city carried on, doubtless pleased with the $38,000,000 windfall it collected from homeowners in Vancouver.

Some of those homeowners are not too happy with the city’s “audit process,” a largely documentary review of homeowners’ assertions that they or a tenant actually resided in the home for six months or more.  As a result, a number have filed lawsuits in an effort to get their money back.

We have had several clients who, due to inadvertence, did not file EHT declarations within the declaration period for 2017 and the city has denied their claims for refunds, despite the fact that both can prove that the units were occupied by tenants for the whole of 2017. 

The EHT by-law contains a provision that deems the home to be vacant for tax purposes if the declaration is not filed on time and the appeal period has expired. This is purely a cash-grab measure, which ignores the reality that the home may have been fully occupied during the relevant years.

Unfortunately, once any government gets a taste of free money, its nearly impossible to repeal the tax that generated it –even if the tax is demonstrably ineffective at accomplishing its stated goals.

©Pazder Law Corporation (2019)

  Questions? Call Kenneth Pazder or Melissa Valana (604-682-1509)