EDITORIAL: What value do vacant homes bring to a community?

Government’s priority shouldn’t be to ensure speculators will always be able to line their pockets

The reaction to the province’s decision to impose a tax on vacant homes in B.C.’s hot housing markets has created a tale of two cities within the Capital Region.

Letters are being sent out to homeowners across Greater Victoria, giving them opportunity to seek exemption from the speculation and vacancy tax. Owners who don’t use the home as a principal residence or rent it out at least six months of the year will be required to pay the tax, set at 0.5 per cent of a home’s assessed value (meaning a $1 million home carry a $5,000 tax for an absentee owner).

The provincial government says the tax is a key measure to tackle the housing crises in B.C. urban centres where prices and rents have stretched out of the reach of many residents.

The idea has been embraced in the City of Victoria, where Couns. Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday are seeking provincial approval to introduce a surtax on vacant residential buildings within the city.

READ MORE: Victoria city council seeks authority to tax empty homes

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps noted that there were over 26 vacant or abandoned buildings that the city knew of, but had no authority to touch.

“If we had this we would have the authority to go around to every boarded up building that is a blight and tax it or do some kind of mechanism to have it back in productive use,” Helps said.

READ MORE: Langford mayor says City threatened during meeting over speculation tax

It’s an approach in stark contrast to one adopted across town in Langford, where Mayor Stew Young vows to continue the fight against the speculation tax. Young sees the tax as a job killer. He says his community relies on the building industry and the introduction of the speculation tax has resulted in a slowdown in projects and investment.

Greater Victoria is seeing a boom in construction activity, with many of the projects focused on residential rental properties. It seems counterintuitive that there would be a huge demand from developers interested in properties that would remain vacant for most of the year.

There still may be some willing to invest millions in the expectation that the real estate market will continue to soar forever skyward. However, government’s priority shouldn’t be to ensure that speculators will always be able to line their pocket’s at a community’s expense. A community is more than simply a collection of homes, and vacant housing does nothing to increase the value of the communities we choose to call home.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at car dealership in Campbell River turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Horgan heckled as gas prices sit at record high, could go up more

Premier John Horgan blames refiners, not taxes

Home care transition could exacerbate worker shortage: Seniors advocate

Advocate fears impact of eight-hour shift model on an industry under stress

Tofino beckons Trudeau back for Easter vacation

Environmental group hopes latest Pacific Rim vacation inspires change in prime minister

Many teens unaware if they’re vaping nicotine or not

Health Canada survey finds many youth are unaware of the risks of using nicotine products

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from B.C. pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

Police charge 27-year-old male in Langford shooting

Justin Lemmen was arrested shortly after the shooting after crashing into a truck

Good Samaritans rescue Sidney senior trapped under mobility scooter

78-year-old broke her pelvis and spent a week in hospital after the accident

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Woman who was chased and tackled after break-in sentenced on Vancouver Island

Natasha Geraldine Harris, 28, was sentenced to time served and will be released from jail

Most Read