Mayor Gregor Robertson has revealed that a new levy on unoccupied dwellings is reaping a financial windfall for the city.
The empty homes tax has already brought $17 million into the Vancouver treasury.
It's expected to reach $30 million by the end of the year.
After deducting administrative costs, the proceeds will be reinvested into affordable housing.
It cost $7.5 million to launch the new tax, according to the city, and annual operating costs are around $2.5 million.
“We brought in the empty homes tax because we want to ensure that housing is for homes first, not just treated as a commodity,” Robertson said in a news release. “With a near-zero vacancy rate, we can’t have homes sitting empty while people who want to live and work in our city are struggling to find a place to rent.
“Our hope was that the tax would be an incentive for owners to rent out their homes that are empty for most of the year. For those who didn’t make their empty home available for rent, they have made—or will be making—a welcome contribution to Vancouver’s affordable housing programs.”
So far, the city has concluded that just under 8,500 properties in the city are either underutilized or unoccupied, with homeowners declaring that 1,200 are vacant.
The city noted that another 2,100 homeowners who didn't file declarations were also taxed, and 5,200 obtained exemptions based on:
- a property title being transferred during the year;
- the home was being renovated or redeveloped;
- there were strata restrictions on rentals;
- and other reasons, such as the homeowner was in care or died or the property was occupied for more than 180 days for work in Vancouver.
Last year, the general manager of planning, urban design, and sustainability, Gil Kelly, told council that 21,820 homes in Vancouver were empty. He based this figure on Statistics Canada data taken on May 10, 2016.
Later that year, three NPA councillors (Elizabeth Ball, George Affleck, and Melissa De Genova) voted against imposing a new tax on homes that remained empty for at least six months of the year.
Instead, they proposed creating incentives for people to rent empty homes. That was rejected by the Vision Vancouver majority and Green councillor Adriane Carr, who felt that a tax was a better approach.
Under the bylaw, homeowners must file a declaration stating if their properties are rented or face heavy fines.
The empty homes tax is one percent of the assessed value.