EDITORIAL: What value do vacant homes bring to a community

The reaction to the province’s decision to impose a tax on vacant homes in B.C.’s hot housing markets has created a tale of two cities within the Capital Region.

Letters are being sent out to homeowners across Greater Victoria, giving them opportunity to seek exemption from the speculation and vacancy tax. Owners who don’t use the home as a principal residence or rent it out at least six months of the year will be required to pay the tax, set at 0.5 per cent of a home’s assessed value (meaning a $1 million home carry a $5,000 tax for an absentee owner).

The provincial government says the tax is a key measure to tackle the housing crises in B.C. urban centres where prices and rents have stretched out of the reach of many residents.

The idea has been embraced in the City of Victoria, where Couns. Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday are seeking provincial approval to introduce a surtax on vacant residential buildings within the city.

READ MORE: Victoria city council seeks authority to tax empty homes

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps noted that there were over 26 vacant or abandoned buildings that the city knew of, but had no authority to touch.

“If we had this we would have the authority to go around to every boarded up building that is a blight and tax it or do some kind of mechanism to have it back in productive use,” Helps said.

READ MORE: Langford mayor says City threatened during meeting over speculation tax

It’s an approach in stark contrast to one adopted across town in Langford, where Mayor Stew Young vows to continue the fight against the speculation tax. Young sees the tax as a job killer. He says his community relies on the building industry and the introduction of the speculation tax has resulted in a slowdown in projects and investment.

Greater Victoria is seeing a boom in construction activity, with many of the projects focused on residential rental properties. It seems counterintuitive that there would be a huge demand from developers interested in properties that would remain vacant for most of the year.

There still may be some willing to invest millions in the expectation that the real estate market will continue to soar forever skyward. However, government’s priority shouldn’t be to ensure that speculators will always be able to line their pocket’s at a community’s expense. A community is more than simply a collection of homes, and vacant housing does nothing to increase the value of the communities we choose to call home.

Just Posted

BREAKING: Police actions under investigation following Langford crash

IIO investigates officer-related incidents that result in serious harm

Victoria woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

Victoria council looks to self-impose carbon tax on staff airfare

A new carbon pricing fee would put additional funds into the city’s Climate Action Reserve

Gas stations could push to 167.9 cents a litre this week

Analyst says high prices are due to supply and demand

United Way celebrates volunteers, contributors in Greater Victoria area

$4.7 million was raised in 2018 thanks to the work of hundreds of people

WATCH: Cougar saunters through Metchosin yard

Spring cougar sighting caught on camera

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

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

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Island Cup set for East Sooke on May 3-5

Off-road racing event expected to attract over 50 racers

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read