The B.C. government is expanding its speculation and vacancy tax to 13 more municipalities, including five on Vancouver Island.
The tax is intended to reduce the number of homes sitting vacant in a community.
It was first introduced in 2018, and five years on, it is in effect across dozens of communities across B.C., including in Greater Victoria, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Duncan, Lake Cowichan and North Cowichan.
“There’s something wrong when people are buying up investment homes and keeping them empty while others are living in vehicles and can’t find housing,” said B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon in a release Wednesday.
“Homes are meant to be lived in by people in our communities, not used for speculation,” he said.
On Wednesday, the province said it was expanding the speculation tax to these 13 municipalities:
- Qualicum Beach
- Lake Country
- Salmon Arm
In January 2025, homeowners in these 13 communities will need to declare how their properties were used in 2024.
The province says this one-year timeframe gives residents a chance to organize how they use their properties, and determine if they need to apply for an exemption.
According to the province, 99 per cent of B.C. residents are exempt from the speculation and vacancy tax.
An independent review completed in 2022 also found that the tax helped free up more than 20,000 homes in Metro Vancouver alone.
Island mayors voice support
Many Vancouver Island mayors whose communities will soon be affected by the tax voiced support for the province’s decision.
“Expanding the speculation and vacancy tax to include our community isn’t just about property,” said Cumberland Mayor Vickey Brown in a release Wednesday.
“It’s about ensuring each community has strong neighbourhood connections instead of empty houses; it’s about turning houses into homes instead of a collection of assets; and it’s about creating vibrant communities filled with life,” she said.
The mayors of Courtenay and North Cowichan also said they were happy to be included in the new tax, saying that their communities are seeing vacancy rates of near 0 per cent and that the tax will hopefully free up some housing.
“The City of Courtenay takes housing accessibility and affordability in Courtenay seriously and see the speculation tax as another tool to assist in making more housing available to residents,” said Mayor Bob Wells.
Once the tax is online in these 13 municipalities, the province’s speculation and vacancy tax will be in effect across 59 communities in B.C.