While we sympathize with the sentiment behind the push for a vacancy tax, it’s an unworkable solution and probably unconstitutional.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, frustrated by homes sitting empty when housing is in such short supply, has asked the B.C. government to amend the Vancouver Charter, allowing that city to impose and collect a tax on empty houses.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Monday the legislature will meet July 25 to discuss Robertson’s request, and given the B.C. Liberal majority, Robertson will likely get what he asked for.
The mayors of Victoria and Oak Bay share Robertson’s concerns and favour an amendment to the Community Charter so all municipalities can impose a vacancy tax.
It would be a nightmare to enforce. Would a house be deemed vacant if its owners lived in Kamloops and came to Victoria occasionally for a little rest and relaxation?
It would not likely withstand a constitutional challenge. Is it up to governments to dictate how much time people must live in houses they own?
And it probably wouldn’t change things. If someone can afford to own a spare house in Victoria or Vancouver, will the tax be enough incentive to rent out their house?
House prices are high because ordinary people are too willing to pay too much. It’s a matter of supply and demand.
It’s a crisis that demands solutions, but a vacancy tax isn’t one of them.