Big majority backs absentee homeowner tax: Poll

Foreign ownership debate 'racist' to some poll respondents, but most agree non-resident property owners don't add to community

Failed Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong proposed a tax on absentee owners in last fall's municipal election campaign.

Failed Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong proposed a tax on absentee owners in last fall's municipal election campaign.

Nearly three-quarters of B.C. residents support a tax on absentee homeowners to help quell real estate speculation, according to a new poll.

The Insights West online survey found 73 per cent rated it a “good” or “very good” idea, while 17 per cent called it a bad idea and 10 per cent weren’t sure.

The poll also found 76 per cent of homeowners believe the value of their own homes is raised when foreigners buy into the market.

Eighty-six per cent of respondents believe people who own homes but don’t live in them are speculators and not really part of the community.

RELATED:Critics doubt value of real estate speculation taxRennie: Vancouver needs density, millennials need hope and a solution

Opinions were also broken down by ethnicity and the poll found 35 per cent of East Asian respondents – 21 per cent of all respondents – believe the debate about foreign real estate ownership in B.C. is “inherently racist.”

Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco said that’s a problem for policy makers trying to find a proposal that won’t alienate important groups of voters.

“You don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize some of your votes,” Canseco said.

“There’s a group of people – one out of three East Asians – who whenever they hear about this discussion of a tax for absentee homeowners they do believe it’s question related to race and not necessarily related to economics.”

Despite the discomfort of some with the foreign ownership debate, the poll found East Asians just as supportive of an absentee owner tax, which was championed last fall by failed Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong.

Seventy-three per cent of East Asians back the idea as good or very good, while 74 per cent of self-described “whites” backed it and support was strongest of all among South Asians at 83 per cent.

East Asians were also strongly in agreement (88 per cent) that absentee owners are speculators and not contributing to the community.

Questions have been raised about the practicality of enforcing an absentee owner tax, and Canseco acknowledged the issue is more pressing in Vancouver and nearby municipalities where house prices have soared the most.

He pointed to New York City as one jurisdiction where such a tax is in the works.

“The way we feel about this with big houses in the City of Vancouver is the way they feel about it in the City of New York with big penthouses,” he said.

Owners of New York luxury apartments worth more than $5 million who can’t prove they live there at least six months a year will have to pay a minimum 0.5 per cent property tax surcharge, escalating in steps to four per cent for units worth more than $25 million.

“They’re trying to find ways to make those people pay their fair share because they’re only there two weeks a year so they’re not paying it in sales tax,” Canseco said, suggesting something similar might work here.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and condo marketer Bob Rennie last month proposed a tax on real estate speculation, although some observers questioned whether short-term flipping is the real problem.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong has pledged to explore tax mechanisms to support housing affordability, but has also cautioned he intends to tread carefully to avoid damaging the equity built up in the homes of existing residents.

The poll found 77 per cent of Metro Vancouver respondents support an absentee owner tax, compared to 74 per cent on Vancouver Island and 58 per cent in the rest of B.C. Support was also strong across all age groups, income levels and political persuasions.

The survey of 825 B.C. adults was conducted in mid-May with a margin of error of 3.5 per cent.

The poll also underscored the popularity of real estate as an investment. It found 38 per cent of B.C. residents rated real estate the “best long-term investment you can make”, while 18 per cent weren’t sure, 16 per cent named mutual funds, 10 per cent said GICs, eight per cent said stocks, another eight per cent said gold and one per cent said bonds.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Farm Fresh website makes it easy to connect with local farmers. (Courtesy Farm Fresh)
Island Farm Fresh Guide lets residents explore local product

Guide appears in this week’s edition of Black Press Media newspapers from Duncan to Victoria

Sooke’s Whiffin Spit in a blaze of glory. (Pete Knight photo)
Whiffin Spit in a blaze of glory. Transition Sooke is calling on the municipality to slow its growth. The group came up with a growth scenario proposal for the Official Community Plan (OCP) which looks different to than the survey scenarios that emerged from the district. (Pete Knight photo)
Transition Sooke calls for slower growth rate

Group submits alternate growth scenario for Official Community Plan review

Colwood mayor Rob Martin celebrates the opening of Meadow Park Green playground in Royal Bay earlier this year.	This year’s taxes reflect an increase in maintenance costs for parks, trails, and sewers. (Photo contributed/Jennifer Callioux)
Colwood pitches $100 property tax hike

Parks, trails, and sewer maintenance on the rise

Supporter Gordy Dodd cheers on HeroWork Victoria executive director Trevor Botkin, who will be in a lift for 36 hours beside Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress on April 16 and 17 to raise funds for the organization’s next project, a makeover of the Salvation Army’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre on Johnson Street. (Courtesy HeroWork Victoria)
HeroWork Victoria tackles makeover of Salvation Army rehab centre

Executive director to spend 36 hours living in a lift as fundraiser

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Most Read