Mayor Mary-Ann Booth recently lobbied the province in asking for a ‘fair share’ of the revenues generated from the Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT).
Booth recently met with Finance Minister Carol James along with mayors from across the province. At the meeting, Booth said the province provided data on the first 15 months of the Speculation and Vacancy Tax. Of the $58 million collected in 2018, $6.6 million—almost 11 per cent—was collected from West Vancouver.
Booth told the minister that West Vancouver is “ground zero” of the vacation home problem, given the fact that there are 1,700 multimillion-dollar empty homes in the district. The empty homes have hollowed the community and created stratospheric housing prices that are out of sync with local incomes, she said. Empty homes also affect the local economy, neighbourhood character and crime rate as empty homes become targets for break and enters.
While asking for a portion of the revenue, Booth also wants to impose a vacancy tax in West Vancouver, which the municipality isn’t allowed to do. “I am very optimistic that we will see changes in the fall in response to the feedback,” Booth noted.
This summer, the province rejected a proposal by District of West Vancouver to create separate tax classes for more affordable housing. The province acknowledged that the idea had some merit, but said the change would be confusing and impractical.
Last year in February, West Vancouver councillors supported Councillor Nora Gambioli’s motion asking for the province to give municipalities power to create new tax classes. Doing so would create a better and fair system of taxation while helping local government solve the problem of unaffordable housing, she argued.
“Allowing different residential classes would address vacant houses and non-resident ownership, rental homes and denser forms of housing,” she said.
The province says there is merit to the idea but it is too complicated. In a recent response to West Vancouver, it says BC already had more property classes than most jurisdictions across Canada.
“Any changes would further complicate the assessment process. And unless the Province prescribes the tax rates or a methodology to determine the tax rate ratios, there is no guarantee that the sub-classes or additional classes would be used as the province intended, particularly when the real estate market shifts or when there is a shift in priorities,” it says.
Meanwhile, the province said $58 million revenue it received from the speculation tax will go towards creating more affordable housing. She also said the tax had softened the real estate prices and led to more rental options for people.