Richmond city council is not pushing for an extra empty-homes tax, but they are going to ask the province to return the tax it collects on vacant homes to municipalities.
Coun. Kelly Greene brought a motion to council’s committee meeting on Tuesday asking for council to push the Union of B.C. Municipalities to allow cities to levy an empty-homes tax, on top of the speculation tax already imposed by the province.
Greene argued that being able to collect a tax on empty homes would allow Richmond to create affordable housing, and bring it in line with what Vancouver is doing.
“It would level the playing field for investors parking their money, and it would have a huge impact on what we can do for affordable housing,” Greene said.
Coun. Linda McPhail pointed out a similar motion was passed at the recent Lower Mainland Local Government Association, which means it would automatically go to UBCM.
Coun. Alexa Loo said everyone is supportive of affordable housing, but questioned how this would be different from the current speculation tax. She said this just adds another tax, which she doesn’t support, and asked whether this empty-homes tax would be a “new head tax.”
“I don’t think it’s going to add any value at this point,” she said.
Coun. Bill McNulty argued that there should be incentives to encourage investors to build rental housing, instead of roadblocks.
“We’ve got to try to encourage affordable housing and I don’t think the punitive method is to do it,” McNulty said.
Coun. Chak Au voted against the empty-homes tax motion saying after the meeting it was “redundant.”
But he moved that Richmond council ask for the province to return its speculation and vacany tax to municipalities.
The empty homes tax motion was only supported by Greene and Couns. Carol Day, Michael Wolfe and Harold Steves, but the motion to ask the province to give the current tax back to cities was passed.