VANCOUVER – The city of Vancouver has collected nearly $40 million in Empty Homes Tax (EHT) since the tax started in 2016, a report released by the city shows. The funds have gone on to fund affording housing projects and data shows vacant property rates are decreasing.
“The main objective of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax is to influence property owners to put their empty properties on the rental market and the data shows that is happening,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a press release. “For those who choose to keep their properties unoccupied, we appreciate their contributions to the funds that are supporting various, much-needed affordable housing initiatives across the city.”
According to the 2018 Empty Homes Tax Annual Report there were 22 per cent fewer vacant homes in 2018 compared to 2017 and the number of properties declared tenanted went up by 7 per cent year-over-year.
The funds have been spent on three major initiatives. $17 million has been spent on the 2019-2022 Community Housing Incentive Program that was recently approved by Council that will provide grants to housing providers to deepen affordability of social and co-op housing.
The tax also facilitated the $3.8-million purchase of Ross House, a single room occupancy building with 24 rooms in the Downtown Eastside.
“We are in the process of securing a non-profit operator who will support the implementation of increasing housing options for LGBTQ and trans, gender diverse, and Two-Spirit people (TGD2S) at this location, and work to support Japanese-Canadian and Indigenous culture and heritage through public art, events and programming, and heritage rehabilitation,” read a statement from the city.
Finally, $5.83 million of the taxes funded additional programs and support services to increase advocacy and support for renters, including funding to the Rent Bank, establishment of a renters’ inquiry line, grants to non-profits that advocate for renters and development of a Renter Centre that will centralize support resources.
“From securing safe, warm homes in the Downtown Eastside, to increasing support for renters and providing grants to non-profit housing providers, lives are being changed by the revenue generated from the Empty Homes Tax,” said Sandra Singh, general manager of arts, culture and community services, in a press release. “We’re looking forward to reaching more residents across Vancouver as the projects and programs continue to grow.”