Vancouver implements “empty homes tax” to dampen speculative appreciation of home prices

Portland’s often-envied big sister tried building its way out of its affordability crisis, with dismal results; now it decides to “follow the money”

Downtown Vancouver skyline.

Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson admits that city’s version of “build, baby build” hasn’t worked.

“We had ramped up our rental housing supply, [and] focused on supportive housing for our most vulnerable population,” Robertson told “But the pressure in the real estate market continued to escalate dramatically.”

In fact, a recent analysis showed that over 12,000 of Vancouver’s units were sitting empty — the result of a wave of real estate speculation and commodification.

The result, he says, was “untethered speculation, jacked-up prices and flipping in the local real estate market.”  A warning to Portland?

So the administration went after the economic root of the problem, by passing a 1% tax on vacant homes.  The administration believes the new tax will dampen the impact of housing speculation, and also provide funding to help build more affordable housing.  Properties that are not being held for speculative purposes (such as historic homes seeking rehab) have a number of ways of claiming exemption from the tax.

Our Vancouver colleague Patrick Condon, professor at UBC, has called for a similar methodology in the past, as we noted previously on this blog.

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One Reply to “Vancouver implements “empty homes tax” to dampen speculative appreciation of home prices”

  1. A point of clarification- The 12,000 units were over a period from 2001 to 2016. Not, new apartment units built to solve an affordable housing crisis. The homes in the study were a high proportion of second homes that had been identified as not having been rented for 30 consecutive days or 6 months. The marker for the proposed Tax.
    Indeed a small number were vacant homes built with foreign money from unstable parts of the world. Vancouver has very low property tax, while having high taxes in other arenas.

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