Figures released by B.C.’s finance ministry this week showed homeowners in West Vancouver paid more than $8.754 million in the province’s speculation and vacancy tax in 2022.
The amount of speculation and vacancy tax paid by homeowners in West Vancouver was the second highest among B.C. municipalities, after Vancouver, where owners forked over $19.08 million, and just ahead of Richmond, where owners paid $8.747 million.
But while the total speculation and vacancy tax paid by owners in Vancouver and Richmond went down from previous years, in West Vancouver the total has continued to go up. There were also far more homeowners paying the tax in Vancouver and Richmond. In West Vancouver, there were 302 “non-exempt” owners paying the tax in 2022 on 192 "non-exempt" properties.
About 1.4 per cent of homeowners in West Vancouver paid the tax. That’s similar to the share of property owners paying the tax in Kelowna, and about double the percentage of homeowners who pay the tax in most other Lower Mainland communities, including Vancouver and Richmond.
As in other areas of Metro Vancouver, most of the homeowners paying the tax in West Vancouver were foreign owners or members of “satellite families” – where some members of the family live locally but the breadwinner typically earns most of the household income overseas. Together, those owners accounted for more than $6 million of the tax paid. B.C. residents collectively paid about $1.4 million of the tax in West Vancouver, while other Canadians paid $406,000.
Since 2019, the speculation and vacancy tax charged on properties owned by foreigners and satellite families has been two per cent of assessed value. B.C. residents and other Canadians are taxed at 0.5 per cent of a property’s assessed value.
According to the provincial statistics, between six and nine per cent of the homes in West Vancouver have some degree of foreign ownership.
But other statistics, including data from the Canadian Housing Statistics Program analyzed by SFU researcher Andy Yan, have put that figure higher – at just under 13 per cent of single-family homes in West Vancouver.
A vast majority of residential properties in West Vancouver qualified for an exemption to the tax, according to the ministry.
The biggest category for exemption was the owners were occupying the home as a principal residence. The second biggest exemption category was for homes being rented to long-term tenants.
Elsewhere on the North Shore there was far less of the speculation and vacancy tax paid by property owners.
In the District of North Vancouver, 171 owners of 72 non-exempt properties paid about $1.08 million in the tax. Of about 28,797 residential properties in the District of North Vancouver, foreign owners, satellite families, corporations or a combination of owners owned 963 properties.
In the City of North Vancouver, 183 owners of 101 non-exempt properties paid $788,000 in the tax. Foreign owners, satellite families, corporations or a combination of owners owned a total of 1,021 city properties.
The ministry estimated revenue received from the tax for the 2022 tax year province-wide at about $81.9 million – up from $78.4 million in 2021.
The tax has had its share of local critics. One couple previously said they were dinged the tax because the province got their residential address wrong and assumed they weren’t living in their house. In other cases, one spouse’s foreign citizenship triggered a tax bill.