Legislators will be back in Victoria on Monday with plans to open the door for the City of Vancouver’s empty home tax.
Also on the docket is changing B.C.’s Human Rights code to protect transgender people and removing the real estate industry’s power to self-regulate.
Global BC political analyst Keith Baldrey suggests there may also be a surprise bill.
“There may be one more bill on top of that. There are rumours there’s three bills. [Finance Minister] Mike de Jong at his news conference where he released the public accounts last week had this mysterious long pause when he was asked if there was going to be any taxes on foreign owners or foreign capital. And we’re all trying to read the tea leaves there, what exactly does that mean?”
Baldrey says the city will have its work cut out for trying to meet its timeline goal of this fall.
“You know, what is a vacant home, is it something for at least a year? How do you police this? How big is the tax going to be? How is it enforced? All unanswered questions about this proposal.”
Several Metro Vancouver mayors have been on the fence or skeptical about the tax’s effects, while Victoria’s mayor Lisa Helps says she wants to see the power expanded to all B.C. municipalities.
“Well, they’re an issue, but the biggest issue is non-residents buying homes as investments.”
West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith says a vacancy tax is medicine for the symptom, not the cause.
Speaking on The Jill Bennett show, Smith says there’s no denying the housing mess – but that Vancouver’s plan could have unintended consequences.
“I don’t personally think we want neighbours squealing on neighbours. It would require a large bureaucracy and I don’t know whether it would get the results that its intended to.”
Smith says instead he wants the province to let each municipality tax property with its own system — which he says in West Vancouver would mean dinging non-residents.
“So if in West Vancouver we wanted to have non-resident residential tax rate, that would be our rate, and if North Vancouver wanted to have a different tax rate for condominiums versus single family homes, each municipality depending on their own circumstances would determine how they wanted to assess property taxes on their residents.”