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Vancouver’s proposal to tax vacant homes being taken seriously, province vows

B.C.’s finance minister says the provincial government is taking a City of Vancouver proposal to impose a tax on vacant homes seriously, despite the province’s general reluctance to seek solutions to the region’s housing affordability crisis in taxation.

The government of B.C. will establish the legislative framework to allow the City of Vancouver to implement its proposed vacancy tax, B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong said Monday. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (left) and de Jong are shown in a file photo.
The government of B.C. will establish the legislative framework to allow the City of Vancouver to implement its proposed vacancy tax, B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong said Monday. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (left) and de Jong are shown in a file photo. CASSIDY OLIVIER / PNG

B.C.’s finance minister says the provincial government is taking a City of Vancouver proposal to impose a tax on vacant homes seriously, despite the province’s general reluctance to seek solutions to the region’s housing affordability crisis in taxation.

Mike de Jong made the comments Monday following an hour-long meeting with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson about the city’s request for the province to create a new property class assessment that would allow the city to tax vacant properties.

De Jong characterized the meeting as productive, but stressed that no conclusions or consensus had been reached. Instead, the meeting laid the groundwork for what both de Jong and Robertson said will be a series of conversations between the two governments in the coming weeks.

“We had productive, candid conversations,” said de Jong. “As always, there are issues around the creation, introduction of measures of taxation. I will be the first to say candidly, I have been cautious, the government has been cautious, about drawing on taxation authority to address the housing challenges.”

Robertson, who unveiled the city’s proposal last week, believes the vacancy tax will encourage the owners of empty houses and condos to rent, thereby increasing the city’s rental stock. The city’s current rental vacancy rate sits at 0.6 per cent.