West Vancouver owners paid $6.7 million in vacancy tax in 2018

Figures revealed by Finance Minister Carole James on Thursday showed homeowners in West Vancouver paid almost $6.7 million in the province’s new speculation and vacancy tax in 2018.

The amount paid towards the new tax by homeowners in West Vancouver was the third highest amount among B.C. municipalities, after Vancouver, where owners forked over almost $19.3 million and Richmond, where owners paid almost $8.4 million towards the new tax.

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But the amount paid by West Vancouver homeowners still clocked in higher than that of many larger municipalities like Surrey, where owners paid just over $4 million in the tax in 2018 and Burnaby, where owners paid roughly $3.5 million.

About two per cent of properties – 337 out of 15,352 – were subject to the speculation and vacancy tax in West Vancouver, according to statistics provided by the ministry.

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.

In West Vancouver, foreign owners forked over more than $3 million in speculation and vacancy tax in 2018 while “satellite families” paid just under $2.6 million. In contrast, B.C. residents hit by the tax in West Vancouver paid $608,000 towards government coffers, other Canadians paid $122,000 and other types of owners like corporations and trusts paid $306,000.

Across the province, foreign owners paid an average of $5,530 in the tax while satellite families paid an average of $6,333. But according to the government’s figures, owners in West Vancouver who paid the tax likely paid significantly more than that – around $20,000 on average.

That’s about twice what owners subject to the tax paid in the City of Vancouver.

In 2018, the tax was .5 per cent of the property’s assessed value. In 2019 that tax rate goes up to 2 per cent of assessed value for foreign owners and satellite families.

According to data from the Canadian Housing Statistics Program analyzed by SFU researcher Andy Yan earlier this year, 12.7 per cent of single family homes in West Vancouver are owned by foreigners.

Across B.C., owners of almost 9,400 properties paid the tax in 2018. Among those were 4,400 condos and 3,600 detached homes.

The province collected $58 million in the speculation and vacancy tax in the calendar year 2018. Most of that – $50 million – was assessed on properties in Metro Vancouver.

That number rose to $115 million for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

On Thursday, James said at a press conference that the tax is working as intended. “It is in fact targeting speculators,” she said.

“Our government will not rely on a propped up real estate market to manage the economy.”

James said when the NDP took office, “B.C. was at the peak of a housing crisis” and “buildings and neighbourhoods were being hollowed out” with homes left vacant by absentee owners.

The government expects to bring in more from the tax this year, as the tax rate for foreign owners goes up, forecasting revenue of $185 million from the tax in both 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.

James said the province is consulting with local mayors on the information and is open to tweaking the tax. She said the government will also be auditing to make sure people have told the truth when declaring reasons they should be exempt from the tax, such as homes occupied by long-term tenants, in the process of being renovated or subject to rental restrictions.

According to finance ministry statistics, the province collected far less speculation and vacancy tax in North Vancouver.

Owners of 110 properties paid a collective total of $825,000 in the tax in the District of North Vancouver in 2018. Owners of 111 properties in the City of North Vancouver paid a collective total of $425,000 in the tax.

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