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West Van homeowners paid almost $7M in speculation and vacancy tax in 2019

West Vancouver property owners forked over third highest amount of the tax
west van house
Property owners in West Vancouver paid the third-highest amount of vacancy tax in the province in 2019.

Figures from the finance ministry showed homeowners in West Vancouver paid almost $7 million in the province’s new speculation and vacancy tax in 2019.

The total speculation and vacancy tax paid by West Vancouver owners – just over $6.89 million – was up from the $6.7 million paid in 2018, even though the total number of residential properties the tax was assessed on was halved.

West Van property owners paid third highest amount of tax

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 $24 million, and Richmond, where owners paid $10.75 million towards the new tax.

But in both of those communities, far more property owners paid the tax than the owners of 131 “non exempt” properties in West Vancouver. In 2018, owners of 337 properties in West Vancouver paid the tax.

 

The amount paid by West Vancouver homeowners still clocked in higher than that of many larger municipalities like Burnaby, where owners of 480 properties paid just over $5.2 million in the tax in 2019, and Surrey, where owners of about 470 properties paid roughly $5 million.

About one per cent of residential properties – 131 out of 15,352 – were subject to the speculation and vacancy tax in West Vancouver, according to statistics provided by the ministry.

Foreign owners and satellite families in West Van paid $5.7 million

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 about $5.7 million of the tax paid. Residential properties owned by corporations and trusts paid $595,000 in the tax in West Vancouver, while B.C. residents collectively paid about $592,000.

In 2019, the speculation and vacancy tax charged on properties owned by foreigners and satellite families went up to 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 ministry figures, about 10 per cent of the residential properties in West Vancouver have some kind of foreign ownership (including those owned by foreigners, satellite families, corporations, trusts and those with mixed types of ownership).

Previously, data from the Canadian Housing Statistics Program analyzed by SFU researcher Andy Yan put that figure slightly higher. Yan estimated 12.7 per cent of single-family homes in West Vancouver are owned by foreigners.

Most foreign-owned homes qualified for tax exemption

A vast majority of the approximately 1,440 foreign-owned 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, just 61 owners of non-exempt properties paid about $1.1 million in the tax. Of about 27,500 residential properties in the District of North Vancouver, foreign owners, satellite families, corporations or a combination of owners owned 1,033 properties.

In the City of North Vancouver, 91 owners of non-exempt properties paid about $751,000 in the tax. Foreign owners, satellite families, corporations or a combination of owners owned a total of 1,140 city properties.

Fewer properties assessed vacancy tax in 2019

According to the government, fewer properties paid the speculation and vacancy tax in 2019 than in 2018. In fact the number of properties whose owners paid the tax dropped by about one-third.

The ministry estimated revenue received from the tax for the 2019-2020 tax year at about $81 million – significantly lower than the government’s original estimate of $185 million.

West Vancouver council has repeatedly asked the province for the power to hit absentee homeowners with its own speculation and vacancy tax.

Council has argued West Vancouver sees very little provincial money spent on housing in the municipality despite its residents’ large contribution to the speculation and vacancy tax.

The City of Vancouver, meanwhile, has raised $40 million in revenue with its own empty homes tax.

 

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