Tripling Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax forces more homes back onto market, increases affordable housing funds

PRELIMINARY data from the 2021 empty homes tax shows a decline in the number of vacant properties and a doubling of revenue on declared properties to fund affordable housing, thanks to the tripling of the tax rate to three percent – a key promise delivered by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“My move to triple the empty homes tax will deliver more than $32 million in funding from homes declared vacant – more than doubling 2020’s interim total of $15 million – to help build more affordable housing and fight homelessness in our city,” said Stewart on Monday. “At the same time, vacant properties are on the decline meaning more homes for locals, not speculators”

“With one of Canada’s lowest vacancy rates, well below two percent, we must continue pulling out all the stops to help renters and first-time home buyers stay in Vancouver,” said Stewart.

In November 2020, Council passed Stewart’s motion to increase the tax rate from 1.25 percent to three percent effective 2021. According to staff, preliminary empty homes numbers for 2021 show a 15 percent decrease in homes declared vacant without an exemption, from 765 properties in 2020 to 653 properties in 2021.

“In 2020, the Empty Homes Tax funded over $8 million in housing construction and land purchases, and $12 million in grants to lower rents,” said Stewart. “And thanks to the new tripling of the tax rate, we’re going to ramp up those investments and ensure even more people find the housing they need at a price they can afford.”

These empty homes numbers are preliminary and, as compliance checks are completed, additional properties may be found vacant and levied the tax. Property owners have until July 2023 to submit a late declaration.