Mayors of B.C. communities affected by the NDP government’s pending “speculation tax” on second homes got the support of delegates of their counterparts province-wide Wednesday, and urged Premier John Horgan to make affordable housing measures a local decision.
Mayors of Langford, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Radium Hot Springs and Parksville held a news conference outside the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler to drive home the point that they are seeing unintended and negative consequences from the tax, due to take effect next year.
West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said the prospect of the tax has caused “a bit of a recession” in his community. Single-family home starts are down 40 per cent since the tax was announced in February, and multi-family development proposals are off 45 per cent since the tax targeted vacant properties, he said.
Radium Hot Springs Mayor Clara Reinhardt said the announcement had an immediate effect on her resort community near the Alberta border, with housing developments cancelled.
Finance Minister Carole James confirmed after the vote that the speculation tax is going ahead in its amended form.
James rolled back the extent of the tax in March after protests from vacation homeowners, exempting the Gulf Islands, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, the Juan de Fuca region in Premier John Horgan’s constituency and rural areas of the Fraser Valley and Central Okanagan.
It applies to Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria and the municipalities of Nanaimo, Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Kelowna and West Kelowna. It is to take effect based on 2018 assessed property values, at 0.5 per cent for B.C. residents and two per cent for foreign owners and “satellite families” who don’t pay income tax in B.C.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson noted that the resolution to dump the tax had overwhelming support from local politicians at the UBCM convention. Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran endorsed Wilkinson’s argument that the tax doesn’t target speculation.
In May, Wilkinson proposed his own version of the tax, targeting capital gains of people who flip condominiums for a quick profit.