$86.6 million allocated to support affordable housing initiatives since inception
THE Empty Homes Tax (EHT), introduced in 2017 to help return vacant and under-used homes to the rental market for those who live and work in Vancouver, continues to fulfil its purpose, according to data released on Wednesday in the City’s 2020 Empty Homes Tax Annual Report.
Of the 1,769 residential properties that were deemed, determined or declared vacant under the EHT program in 2019, 36 per cent were converted to occupied status in 2020.
As the fourth year of the EHT drew to a close, the total number of vacant properties stood at 1,627, which is 26 per cent fewer properties than when the program launched in 2017.
Similar to the data for the previous year, the majority of exempt and vacant properties are condominiums, which account for 58 per cent of combined exempt and vacant properties.
In May 2020, City Council approved a one-time declaration extension, which allowed property owners to submit late declarations for the 2017 and 2018 reference years up to December 31, 2020.
A total of 467 late declarations for 2017 and 2018 were received under the extension and 91 per cent of completed late declarations were determined to be exempt or occupied based on evidence provided, resulting in the tax being rescinded. As a result, some of the data in this annual report has been restated.
Housing initiatives supported by the tax
The EHT works by imposing a tax levy on properties that are declared or deemed vacant, as per the Vacancy Tax By-law. Since the program was launched, a total of $86.6 million in revenues has been allocated to support a variety of affordable housing initiatives to increase the supply and affordability of social housing.
One initiative that EHT revenues continue to support is the City’s Community Housing Incentive Program (CHIP), which provides non-profit housing providers with grants to make social and co-op housing projects more affordable. July 2021 saw Council approve a CHIP capital grant totalling $5.4 million, which will support the construction of 81 new affordable homes proposed by Vancouver Native Housing Society. Located in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, this proposal would create much-needed homes at affordable rents for dozens of Indigenous individuals and families.
In 2020, properties deemed, determined or declared vacant were levied the EHT at a rate of 1.25 per cent. To strengthen compliance with the by-law, Council directed staff to increase this rate to three per cent for the 2021 tax reference year. Declarations for 2021 are now open, and due by February 2, 2022.
You can take an in-depth look at the statistics behind the tax, and learn more about the affordable housing initiatives it supports, in the annual report. For more information about the program, visit the City’s website.