Pandora’s tax box: Vancouver councillors Hardwick, Kirby-Yung oppose land value capture study

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      Vancouver council has voted to study mechanisms that collect a portion of land wealth created by actions of the city.

      However, two councillors with the Non-Partisan Association opposed the move in a meeting Wednesday (December 12).

      Councillors Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung indicated that the move to assess so-called land value capture systems will only lead to more taxes on homeowners.

      “This is just opening Pandora’s box,” Hardwick said.

      According to Hardwick, homeowners are already “overburdened”, and cannot afford additional levies.

      Kirby-Yung said that council deliberations about land value capture mechanisms indicate an “expectation” of “additional funds” being raised.

      “I think there is an intent to leverage additional tax,” Kirby-Yung said.

      According to Kirby-Yung, “people simply cannot afford it”.

      She also noted that city staff members are already doing an assessment of the city’s system of collecting community amenity contributions or CACs.

      CACs are either paid in cash or in kind by developers when council approves rezoning applications that allow them to build more.

      City staff will report to council in July 2019 about their assessment of the city's CAC system.

      The city also collects development cost levies or DCLs per square foot of new development to finance new parks, childcare facilities, public housing, and engineering infrastructure.

      Two of Hardwick and Kirby-Yung’s NPA colleagues, Melissa De Genova and Rebecca Bligh, voted in favour of directing staff to assess land value capture mechanisms.

      NPA councillor Lisa Dominato was absent during the vote.

      The matter about land value capture was the first item in the Wednesday agenda of council.

      Protesters who showed up at council chambers in opposition to new taxes on homeowners hoisted banners against taxes during the discussion.

      However, the demonstrators were there to support a separate motion by NPA councillor Bligh, which opposes the additional school tax imposed by the B.C. NDP government on homes valued at least $3 million.

      One of the protesters was Mary Lavin, a Kitsilano homeowner.

      Lavin told media that although they were there for another matter, there is also apprehension that moves to study land value capture may lead to more taxes on homeowners.

      Land value capture is a policy that enables cities to get a part of land value increases resulting from public investments and other government actions.

      In supporting the motion to study this kind of approach, councillor Bligh of the NPA said that it simply about looking at options.

      According to Bligh, the vote isn’t about increasing taxes.

      In addition to De Genova and Bligh, Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and councillors Adriane Carr, Pete Fry, Michael Wiebe, Christine Boyle, and Jean Swanson voted for a study.