Vancouver approves Empty Homes Tax in effort to increase rental housing supply

November 17 2016

"In Vancouver's rental housing crisis, the city can't afford to sit on the sidelines while more than 20,000 empty and underused homes hold back badly-needed longer-term rentals," says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Vacant apartment with blue walls and no furniture

City Council has approved a program that will introduce a 1% tax on empty homes. Targeting as many as 22,000 empty or under-utilized homes in Vancouver, the Empty Homes Tax will apply to those properties that are neither an owner's principal residence nor being rented on a long-term basis. Vacant residential land will also be subject to the Tax.

"In Vancouver's rental housing crisis, the city can't afford to sit on the sidelines while more than 20,000 empty and underused homes hold back badly-needed longer-term rentals," says Mayor Gregor Robertson. "The Empty Homes Tax won't solve the rental crisis, but it's one piece of the puzzle to boosting rental supply and bringing relief to renters by turning thousands of empty and underused homes into rental properties. In this tough housing market, it's unacceptable for so much housing to be treated as a commodity when people are desperate for an affordable, secure place to live."

Most Vancouver homeowners, including snowbirds, will not have to pay the Empty Homes Tax. Principal residences—whether of the registered owner or his/her family member—are not subject to the Tax, nor are properties that are rented for six months of the year or more, in periods of at least 30 consecutive days.

Exemptions to the Empty Homes Tax

Public and stakeholder consultation informed the creation of the following eight exemptions to the Empty Homes Tax:

  • The registered owner uses the property for at least six months of the year for work within the City of Vancouver, but claims a principal residence elsewhere
  • The registered owner, occupying family member, or tenant is undergoing medical or supportive care
  • Ownership of the property changed during the year
  • The owner is deceased and a grant of probate or administration is pending
  • The property is undergoing major renovations, or is under construction or redevelopment, and permits have been issued
  • The property is subject to strata rental restrictions as of November 16, 2016
  • The property is under a court order prohibiting occupancy
  • The property's use is limited to vehicle parking, or the shape, size or other aspect of the property precludes the ability to construct a residential building

Self declarations

In 2018, all Vancouver homeowners will be required to complete a self-declaration concerning the status of their property in the 2017 calendar year. These declarations will be subject to a vigorous audit and enforcement process that is in line with the best practices of provincial and federal taxation authorities.

Why we have the Empty Homes Tax

The Empty Homes Tax rate of 1% was determined through extensive consultation with industry experts and the public, and is intended to motivate homeowners to rent out their empty or under-utilized properties. Net revenues from the Tax will fund affordable housing initiatives.

In March, an Ecotagious study we commissioned revealed there are over 10,800 year-round empty homes in Vancouver using BC Hydro Data. 2011 Census Data shows that there are more than 22,000 homes in Vancouver unoccupied or occupied by temporary residents.

Learn more about the Empty Homes Tax

Tackling our city's housing crisis

Since 2012, we have enabled over 12,000 affordable homes. The Empty Homes Tax is the latest in a series of steps Council has taken to tackle Vancouver's housing crisis, such as:

  • Directing staff to bring forward steps to regulate short-term rentals, like Airbnb, this fall
  • Pursuing modular housing on city-owned sites for temporary affordable housing
  • Offering 20 sites of City-owned land worth $250 Million to senior governments to use for affordable housing
  • Calling for both a speculation tax and a luxury sales tax to create a more level playing field in the housing market
  • Increasing family home requirements in new housing projects to 35%
  • Providing four City-owned sites to enable Vancouver's first Community Land Trust

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