Victoria wants the same ability to tax vacant homes that is being granted to Vancouver as the provincial capital deals with a shortage of rentals and rising prices. This week, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced it would give the City of Vancouver the powers it needs to implement an empty home tax, as vacancy rates in that city are at 0.6 per cent. Now city councillors in Victoria have voted to ask for the same thing with councillor Jeremy Loveday bringing forward the motion. “My opinion is that they should do it all at once and grant all municipalities that same authority as the housing crisis is not just in Vancouver,” he said noting the vacancy rate in his city is near zero as well.
While the rate has not been determined, it is hoped that the tax will encourage more property owners with empty spaces to put their homes up for rent. Vancouver says it will only apply the tax to homes left vacant for an entire year. City staff in Victoria have been asked to start collecting data on how many properties are vacant and Loveday says Victoria doesn’t know yet if it needs an empty home tax — but it wants the option.
“It’s not necessarily that we would implement [it],” he said. “It’s just to have this as another tool in the tool kit so that we can make it easier for people to find housing in the city of Victoria.” During his push for a vacancy tax in Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson called on the provincial government to amend the community charter and grant other municipalities similar powers. Meanwhile B.C. Opposition housing critic David Eby says the province should administer the tax for all of Metro Vancouver and parts of southern Vancouver Island.