Editorial: A taxing problem for NDP

The provincial government’s speculation tax on vacant properties is getting a rough ride. Even the NDP’s Green allies are against it.

After the previous B.C. Liberal government did too little, too late to address the problems of housing affordability and availability, the NDP was at pains to demonstrate its commitment to finding solutions. The speculation tax is the most famous, or notorious, of those solutions.

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The tax charges 0.5 per cent of assessed value in 2018 for any second home valued over $400,000 that remains vacant in the Capital Regional District, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the Regional District of Nanaimo, and the municipalities of Kelowna and West Kelowna.

Next year, the rate goes up if the owner is not a B.C. resident who is a citizen or permanent resident. There is no tax if the property is rented at least six months a year.

At the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention this week, delegates backed a motion from Oak Bay asking the province to shelve the plan and give municipalities the power to tax vacant properties if they want to.

If the province acceded to the request, a patchwork of different policies in an area such as the capital region would be certain to disrupt the market. But Finance Minister Carole James says she won’t yield.

A bigger problem for her is the opposition of Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, who says the tax won’t fix the problem and creates too many new ones. Weaver’s difficulty, however, is that voting against a money bill could trigger an election. There is no easy way out of this one.

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