BC Government Focuses on Major Cities for Speculation Tax

Penticton Western News letters to the editor

The bureaucrats have done their tinkering and the new-and-improved levy on people taking advantage of hot West Coast real estate has been unfurled.

While Minster of Finance Carole James says she has heard the city's concerns, neither municipality will be exempt from the speculation tax.

"They seem to think they can attack speculation with a tax that is not about speculation", he said. "We're focusing in where the crisis is the greatest, major urban centres in the province, to tackle that housing crisis", James said.

The list of five changes begins by narrowing the communities within the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island where the tax will apply to target housing in urban areas.

"Housing is a crisis and a priority for our government", James said in a teleconference with reporters. Canadians outside B.C. will pay 1 per cent, while British Columbians with second homes will receive a tax credit to offset the tax on properties worth less than $400,000.

British Columbians with vacant second homes will be eligible for a non-refundable tax credit of $2,000 against the tax.

Vacant homes will face a 0.5% property tax starting in 2018.

For foreign investors and so-called satellite families, where the main income earner lives outside the country, the rate will be 0.5 per cent in 2018, and rise to two per cent in 2019.

Kent, Hope, Harrison Hot Springs and Bowen Island won't face the tax, but almost everywhere else in the Lower Mainland and Metro Vancouver will have to pay up if they have a vacant property. The tax will be applied on properties that are not the primary residences of the owner - they're not living there for more than six months per year - and that aren't being occupied by a tenant when the owner isn't there. "Many people have thanked us".

Beyond modular housing options, which were first out of the gate, that will mean housing geared towards families, seniors, and students, as well as women and children affected by violence, she said.

The BC Greens, who are propping up the NDP minority government, welcomed today's announcement.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is backing the adjustments made by the NDP, saying "it's a positive sign that this government is willing to listen to British Columbians" in a statement. "Then we gave the opportunity for our staff to work on implementing the details and listening to British Columbians". We agree with the B.C. NDP that we need to take action to address speculation in our real estate market.

The government expects to introduce legislation in the fall to make the tax part of law and they say 99 per cent of British Columbians will be exempt from paying the tax. In particular, the government's policy must target speculation and empty homes in our urban centres without undue adverse effects on rural areas and on British Columbians who aren't speculators.

Kelowna city council also decided last week to draft a letter to the BC government declaring their opposition to the tax. "We're very concerned the NDP is making up taxes by trial and error", he said on a recording of the scrum provided by a spokesperson for his caucus.

On Monday, the province also announced more specific locations in which the tax will apply than those originally outlined during the 2018 budget speech in February.

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