Vancouver City Council approves 25 per cent increase in Empty Homes Tax for 2020

Kennedy Stewart Official photo

VANCOUVER City Council on Wednesday directed City staff to amend the Vacancy Tax bylaw to increase the Empty Homes Tax rate (currently 1 per cent) to 1.25 per cent for the 2020 tax year.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart put forward the motion which includes provision for additional .25 increases to the rate in 2021 and 2022. The mayor’s motion also asks City staff to use additional revenue created by the increase to focus on enforcement efforts, and on providing affordable housing for households with income of less than $50,000 a year.

“I’m pleased that Council supported my call for a phased increase to the Empty Homes Tax of 25 per cent each year for the next three years,” said Stewart. “While the ultimate goal is to add more pressure on empty homes to be filled, any additional revenues will now be used to provide housing for Vancouver’s most vulnerable residents.”

The mayor’s motion also asks City staff to use additional revenue created by the increase to focus on enforcement efforts, and on providing affordable housing for households with income of less than $50,000 a year.

The necessary bylaw change to confirm the new rate for 2020 will need to be enacted by Council at a future meeting.

City staff were also directed to report back on options with respect to late declarations made in good faith after the deadlines to initiate a complaint or request a review have passed.

Council also approved administrative changes to the Vacancy Tax bylaw, the most notable of which is to extend to 90 days the timeframe for property owners to submit a complaint if they wish to challenge the levy on their property.

Also approved was a new exemption where, in certain circumstances, development and tenancy exemptions can be combined to meet the six-month occupancy threshold to be exempt from paying the tax.

Since the City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax (EHT) was launched in 2016, the program has created $39.7 million in net revenue to fund affordable housing initiatives across the city. There has also been an increase in occupied properties and a decrease in vacant properties.

For more details about EHT, including the full 2018 statistics and year-over-year comparisons, read the annual report on the City’s website. For general information on the Empty Homes Tax, visit vancouver.ca/eht.

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