Vancouver Proposes Tax on Empty Homes If Province Fails to Act

  • Vancouver Mayor Robertson makes pitch to British Columbia
  • Canadian city seeks to stem soaring home prices, speculation

Vancouver, home of Canada’s priciest housing market, is proposing a tax on empty homes to help address an “unprecedented” low vacancy rate as residents struggle to find affordable housing.

Vancouver’s preferred option is to have the provincial government of British Columbia create a new tax for empty or under-occupied residential homes, Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement Wednesday. Failing that, the city plans to impose a business tax on empty homes held as investment properties. The city wants a response from the province by Aug. 1.

“Vancouver housing is first and foremost for homes, not a commodity to make money with,” Robertson said. “We need a tax on empty homes to encourage the best use of all our housing, and help boost our rental supply at a time when there’s almost no vacancy.”

Prices in Vancouver are the highest in Canada, topping C$1.5 million ($1.2 million) for a detached home in May, a 37 percent rise over the prior year, according to that city’s real estate board. At 0.6 percent, the current vacancy rate means there are only 330 purpose-built rental apartments available at a given time, Robertson said. That’s in a municipal region of about 2.5 million people.

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