Saanich council votes to ask NDP government to opt out of speculation tax

Saanich council votes to ask NDP government to opt out of speculation tax

In a narrow victory of 5-4, a majority of council including Mayor Richard Atwell backed a motion put forward by Coun. Leif Wergeland.

It proposed a letter be sent to the B.C. Ministry of Finance requesting the district be allowed to opt out of the tax proposed in the February provincial budget.

NDP Finance Minister Carole James says the speculation tax is intended to improve housing affordability in areas where the need is most acute while exempting rural cabins and vacation homes.

“Over 99 per cent of British Columbians will not pay the tax,” said James in March.

“Only those who hold multiple properties and leave them empty in our province’s major cities will be asked to contribute.”

On Vancouver Island, the tax will only apply in the Capital Regional District (but not the Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca) and Nanaimo-Lantzville.

Parksville and Qualicum Beach were excluded after being named in the original plan.

In 2018, the rate for all properties subject to the tax would be set at 0.5 per cent of a property’s assessed value, regardless of whether the owner is foreign, Canadian or from B.C.

Starting in 2019, the tax rate would be set at two per cent for foreign investors and extended family members.

For Canadian citizens and permanent residents who do not live in British Columbia, the tax rate would rise to one per cent of a property’s assessed value next year.

B.C. residents with second properties are also eligible for tax credits valued up to $400,000, said James. The tax credit is meant to offset the tax of $2,000 on a property valued under $400,000.

James said people who rent out their second property for at least six months of the year will not have to pay the speculation tax.

Other communities in Greater Victoria including Langford, Sidney and North Saanich have also asked to able to opt out of the plan.

With files from Canadian Press

Ben O'HaraBen O'Hara

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