Updates to Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax approved

VANCOUVER City Council has approved updates to the Empty Homes Tax that will make the requirements for three exemptions more clear for property owners.

The three approved changes, which will be effective for the 2019 tax year once the updated bylaw is enacted, are:

  • The exemption for death of an owner could be used in the year of death and the year following; this aligns with the provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax rules
  • The exemption for property transfer will be tied to proof of payment of the property transfer tax; this also aligns with the provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax rules
  • The exemption for a rental property will require proof of an arm’s-length tenancy agreement under the Residential Tenancy Act, which will prevent situations where a property appears rented through a separate entity/corporation but is in fact vacant

The bylaw changes put forward for the 2019 tax year were selected based on feedback from property owners during the first year of the Empty Homes Tax program, including as part of the City’s audit program.

Following discussion and hearing from speakers at the February 27 meeting, Council, upon resuming discussion on Tuesday, also directed City staff to:

  • Explore an additional bylaw exemption to cover situations where property owners may be unintentionally impacted by the tax
  • Consider any information or recommendations coming out of the provincial government’s review on money laundering in real estate, and report back to Council on potential applications for the Empty Homes Tax
  • Consider an incentive-based program to encourage more rental properties, potentially to include property tax rebates

In response to earlier direction from Council, City staff will be conducting further research on a number of additional potential bylaw changes for the 2020 tax year, as well as a study of the implications of changing the tax rate from its current rate of one per cent of the property’s assessed taxable value.

As part of the City’s Housing Vancouver Strategy, the Empty Homes Tax is one of the tools being used to address the city’s rental housing crisis. Net revenues from the tax are also being reinvested into affordable housing initiatives in the city.

For more information on the Empty Homes Tax, visit vancouver.ca/eht. For more details about the 2017 declaration year, including the audit program, read the Empty Homes Tax Annual Report.

The City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax is separate from the provincial government’s Speculation and Vacancy Tax; inquiries regarding the province’s tax may be directed tospectaxinfo@gov.bc.ca or by calling 1-833-554-2323.

(Decisions made in the Council meeting have been paraphrased for brevity.)