Foreign investors should be taxed for empty Metro Vancouver homes, say some

An affordable housing shortage in Metro Vancouver has sparked discussions that it could

Photo by: Caelie Frampton | Wikimedia Creative Commons

Photo by: Caelie Frampton | Wikimedia Creative Commons

be alleviated if the empty homes owned by foreign investors were taxed, said West Vancouver mayor, Michael Smith.

According to Metro Vancouver‘s Regional Affordable Housing Strategy, low and low to-moderate income renters earn less than $50,000 per year. The report suggests higher levels of government should intervene for housing to become accessible for people that fall under that category. 

Roles in place for housing delivery and housing policy

Some existing roles in the strategy to advance regional goals and strategies include:

  • Provide mixed income housing through Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation
  • Policy direction through the regional growth strategy Metro 2040 and the Regional Affordable Housing Strategy.
  • Research, collect and analyse data to support regional and municipal housing policy goals.
  • Advocate to senior governments for tools, policies and resources to support regional housing needs.

The strategies are to ensure adequate supply of residential land to meet housing demand through the land use planning and regulatory process.

Holding foreign investors accountable

The Regional Affordable Housing Strategy suggests senior governments should identify concrete ways foreign investment could be directed to improve the affordability of the Metro Vancouver housing market through rental housing, or directing additional fees or taxes towards affordable housing.

At the Greater Vancouver Regional District Regional Planning Committee meeting on Nov. 6, Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer said Sydney and Vancouver has seen an increase in cost in housing this last year. Sydney, however, has rules about foreign buyers.

Other updates to the process

Margaret Eberle gave a presentation on the Regional Housing Policy Update with a large focus on rentals for low-income housing and housing affordability in relation to transit.

The City of Coquitlam has strategic expectations for transit station areas to accommodate a mix of land uses and housing types, and new on-site purpose built rental housing units.

However, in areas of  East Vancouver with access to buses and the SkyTrain, such as Grandview-Woodlands, there has been a disappearance of residents in cheap housing.

Reimer says unit-styled character homes have been gentrified in every sense of the term, where investors are coming in and buying the properties and shipping families and single families out.

“It’s sort of like a monopoly,” she said.

According to the strategy, the City of North Vancouver has” implemented zoning measures in support of housing diversity and affordability, such as permitting secondary suites and/or laneway houses in single-family zoned areas subject to certain conditions, allowing accessory dwelling units in duplexes, reducing parking requirements in areas close to transit, and providing small lot zones.”

In Vancouver, rental housing and affordable housing, including preservation of existing affordable housing, in transit corridors has its wheels in motion with the Cambie Corridor Plan and the Marpole Community Plan.

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