The provincial government introduced the Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT) as one measure to address the housing crisis. It was designed to discourage foreign investment and holding empty homes as vacant investment properties, and revenues are intended to be used to fund affordable housing for BC residents.
I have been following and advocating on this issue for almost five years, and on Thursday, September 12, I attended a meeting with Finance Minister Carole James, together with mayors across the province from Kelowna to White Rock, including Vancouver Island municipalities. It was a very informative and productive meeting on a number of levels.
At the meeting, 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.
In the discussion that followed, the mayors gave feedback on the impact of the tax on their communities. West Vancouver, along with some of the larger urban municipalities, is experiencing a housing crisis caused by money laundering, speculation, and foreign investment. This has hollowed out our community and created stratospheric housing prices that are out of sync with local incomes. West Vancouver is really “ground zero” of the problem, given our 1,700 multimillion-dollar empty homes (affecting our local businesses, our neighbourhood character, and our crime rate as empty homes are inviting targets for break and enters).
I reiterated our request for a fair share of the revenue from the SVT. It should be noted that the SVT is distinct from the empty homes tax in the City of Vancouver, and I also requested the ability to impose our own vacancy tax in West Vancouver, which the municipality does not currently have the authority to do. I am very optimistic that we will see changes in the fall in response to the feedback.
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth