Eleven percent of homeowners have until Friday to declare the status of their property or risk facing costly taxes and fines, warn City of Vancouver officials.
“We are sending out a strong reminder to homeowners across Vancouver to fill out their Empty Homes Tax declarations,” Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters on Monday.
Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax program gives property owners until February 2 to divulge the status of their property (i.e. whether it’s a primary or secondary residence, or if it is being rented out to tenants or left vacant).
“Even if a homeowner occupies their property as their principal residence, rents the home to tenants, or is eligible for an exemption, they are still required to submit a declaration so the City can determine whether the Empty Homes Tax applies to them,” Patrice Impey, the City of Vancouver’s chief financial officer, said in a statement.
Those who don’t submit their declarations by the target date will face a 1% Empty Homes tax on the assessed value of their property. For a home valued at $1m, this amounts to $10,000.
Those who don’t submit their declarations will also have to pay a $250 non-declaration penalty, and those who provide the city with false information about the status of a property can incur a $10,000 fine in addition to the tax.
Robertson said the tax could put thousands of properties back on the rental market.
“There are approximately 25,000 empty or underused homes in Vancouver, according to the last Canada census. That's obviously unacceptable. When we have great job growth, population growth, we need to see our homes used as residences and not as investment properties or commodities,” he said.
“We're hoping to see lots of what were empty homes become part of the long-term rental supply.”
Critics of the new tax say it’s unlikely to significantly boost the supply of rental housing.
Michael Geller, a Vancouver-based architect, planner, and real estate consultant, said the majority of owners are finding legal loopholes to get around the tax, such as getting relatives to sign a lease to make it appear as if someone is living on the property.
“I do not believe we’ll see 25,000 empty homes coming onto the rental market,” Geller said, adding that other property owners might choose to sell their secondary residences or simply pay the tax because “it's not that significant.”
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