Vancouver plans empty homes tax

Vancouver is planning to introduce an empty homes tax to tackle a “rental housing crisis”.

The Canadian city caused ripples to spread through the global real estate world this summer, when it introduced a new foreign buyer tax in an attempt to help combat its rising house prices. Now, the city is looking to add another levy to its market, this time to combat its rental property supply.

Should the tax be approved, it will target the 10,800 year-round empty and roughly 10,000 under-occupied homes in Vancouver, charging 1 per cent on any non-primary residences that are unoccupied for six or more full months in a year. Vacant residential land will also be subject to the charge.

“Vancouver is in a rental housing crisis. The City won’t sit on the sidelines while over 20,000 empty and under-occupied properties hold back homes for renters struggling to find an affordable and secure place to live,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in an official statement. “In a rental housing crisis, it’s unacceptable for so much housing to be treated as a commodity when people are desperate for an affordable, secure place to live.”

Most Vancouver homeowners, including snowbirds, will not be subject to the Empty Homes Tax. Principal residences will not be charged the Empty Homes Tax, nor will properties that are rented long-term (with a tenancy agreement), or for at least 30 days in a row for a minimum of six months in aggregate over the course of a year. For example, a homeowner renting their investment property for six 30-day terms throughout the year will be exempt from the tax, even if those six 30-day terms are not consecutive.

Other exemptions will include properties that are undergoing major renovations or are under construction, homes where the owner or occupier is undergoing medical care, the owner is deceased or ownership of the property has changed during the previous year.