There’s no deal yet, but we’ll know within two weeks if the province and the city of Vancouver can agree on an empty homes tax.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong says he’s agreed with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to look into the idea of having a vacancy tax under the provincial umbrella.
“We haven’t come to a conclusion today, but we have committed to having our respective senior teams sit down and attempt to carve out a proposal that we could then consider on the provincial side and make a firm decision about moving forward.”
Robertson says if talks go nowhere the city is ready to go it alone, though he wouldn’t be pinned down to his original August first deadline.
“We are still prepared to move ahead as a city on taxing vacant homes. The preferred route is to partner with the province and to have a cooperative arrangement given we already do that with the rest of our property tax work.”
Both Robertson and de Jong stressed the need to tread carefully in order to ensure any tax changes were fair, and didn’t penalize the wrong people.
‘We want to be sure we cover all the details and ensure it’s a good system that works for the city and province and for tax payers and homeowners,” said the mayor.
Robertson added that talks are at an ideas level right now, and any of the actual details such as how high the tax would be are still far off.
Vancouver City Council will hear an update on its empty homes tax proposal this Wednesday.
A study commissioned by the city earlier this year found about 10,000 empty homes in Vancouver, close to 90% of them condos.
The talks come after the City of Vancouver last week announced it planned to move ahead with an empty homes tax, with or without the province.
Mayor Robertson argues the tax would give absentee landlords an incentive to fill empty units, thus cutting into the city’s razor thin vacancy rate.
The city says its preferred option is to have the provincial government create a new “residential vacant” property class through BC Assessment.
However, it says if that can’t be worked out, the city could create a new business tax which would be applied to empty or “under-occupied” homes.