After much dithering at the Provincial level this  Globe and Mail Article  states that Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver is proposing a tax on property owners that don’t live in their houses. The intent is to ensure that such properties are rented, and provide valuable housing stock to those that need it.

The challenge is that the Provincial government has already rejected previous attempts to tax vacant Vancouver houses.

While suspecting that 10,000 houses are vacant in Vancouver, a figure released by city staff in March, the Mayor proposes that the tax be high enough to encourage the property to be rented locally. The mayor said  that the city wants access to an estimated 10,000 empty houses in Vancouver, a figure based on data that city staff released in March. But he didn’t say how high he thinks the tax would have to be to persuade those owners to rent out their houses.

There are now evidence-based studies suggesting that foreign buyers have completely distorted the local market making it unaffordable to citizens of Vancouver. Of course there are other protestations that such statements are akin to racism. The upshot is that people who work in Vancouver cannot  afford to live here. The single family home dream is dead.

The intent is to tax all homeowners who do not live in their home, no matter their reasons or their homelands.

“We would love to have thousands of those homes in the rental market right now when there’s almost no vacancy and a real crunch on affordable housing,” the mayor said,  “We’d like to see more supply created from the empty homes that are just sitting there in the city.”

Mayor Robertson is expecting a report in short order before Council’s summer break.You may remember that the Mayor had asked the Premier for jurisdiction for a luxury housing tax a year ago, and some remedies to penalize  owners who did not live in their properties. These suggestions were rejected by the Province. It was suggested that the city could find “solutions in better land-use planning”.

Creating more density does not address the underlying problem of  a lot of vacant houses in Vancouver neighbourhoods. There were two of these vacant foreign-owned houses on my street of nine  houses. It would be great to see them occupied by families.