Victoria could soon be following in the footsteps of Vancouver when it comes to implementing a tax on vacant properties in the city.
Last week, the provincal government announced it will change the Vancouver Charter to give the City of Vancouver the power to implement a tax on empty homes, in an attempt to encourage more people to put their homes up for rent.
According to a report to Vancouver city council recently, the number of unoccupied housing units has grown from 8,400 in 2002 to 10,800 in 2014, which is attributed to growth in the overall housing stock. The results spurred Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to call on the provincial government to allow the city to implement the tax.
In Victoria, councillors are hoping to implement a similar tax to increase the city’s rental stock.
Last week, council passed a motion to have Mayor Lisa Helps write Premier Christy Clark and the ministers of housing, finance, and community sport and cultural development to amend the community charter (that the City of Victoria is governed under) to enable municipalities across B.C. to implement a tax on vacant properties.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who put forward the motion, noted there are a number of condos that are being held as investments and derelict buildings that are boarded up, but couldn’t estimate the number of vacant units in the city.
“Housing is the biggest issue facing our community. We have a housing crisis with a 0.6 per cent vacancy rate. We need every possible tool at our disposal to be able to lessen the impact of such a low vacancy rate and make it easier for people to find a place to live in our city,” said Loveday, adding he’s already heard from councillors from other municipalities about writing similar letters to the government to receive the same authority as Vancouver to implement a tax if necessary.
“We will need some research and data to be able to make an informed decision on whether or not the City of Victoria wants to move forward with a tax like this and whether or not it’s in the best interest of the city.”
As part of the motion, staff will also collect data on the number of empty units in the city and are expected to report back to council at the next quarterly update.