Victoria councillor renews push for vacancy control

Says BC should give local governments authority to implement empty homes tax

Victoria councillor Ben Isitt doesn’t want to see any empty homes in the city.

That’s why he and fellow councillor Jeremy Loveday are bringing a motion to council Jan. 17 asking the city to endorse the resolution that vacancy taxation authority should be extended to local governments.

Isitt told Black Press he’s repeating a request he made two years ago that won support from council and the Union of BC Municipalities.

RELATED: UBCM endorses Victoria’s resolution to tax empty homes

“The province hasn’t yet taken action to give local governments the authority to implement this kind of tax outside of Vancouver so we’re basically reiterating our request,” he said.

“We have a housing crisis. I think if you ask many members of the public; they think it’s wrong that units of housing are sitting empty while some people are sleeping on the streets or others are insecurely housed…”

“This gives the strong financial incentive for the owners of property to use their properties to house people rather than to just sit on empty homes,” Isitt added.

Vancouver implemented a vacancy tax in November, 2016 to deal with the empty home issue – a tax that more than 80 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents supported.

A recent report showed that as of Jan. 1, 2018, Vancouver’s tax had raked in $38 million – revenue the city says is for initial implementation costs and affordable housing initiatives.

Isitt hopes a vacancy tax in Victoria could be used the same way.

“At this stage, it’s just a request to the province to allow us to introduce this kind of a tax,” he said. “If we get that authority then we would get our staff to develop a program for Victoria, and I would anticipate that it would be closely modeled on Vancouver’s program.”

Isitt is hopeful he and Loveday will have council’s support.

“We’ve taken some progressive and strong stances on housing rates and I think this proposal is consistent with that direction,” he said. “I think if the city of Vancouver has it, I can’t see why other communities like Victoria shouldn’t be able to decide whether or not to introduce a tax along these lines.”

RELATED: Battle resumes over speculation tax on B.C. vacant homes

Isitt has also encouraged the city to buy land for affordable housing investments by regional, provincial and federal governments.

He and Loveday present their vacancy tax motion to council at the Jan. 17 meeting.

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