VANCOUVER, BC — The city's empty homes tax has brought in $86.6 million for affordable housing initiatives since its inception in 2017, according to a new report released today.
The total number of vacant properties is on the decline, with 26 percent fewer than when the tax was instated, the City of Vancouver said in the 2020 Empty Homes Tax Annual Report.
Condominiums account for more than half of all empty properties, the report said.
The largest number of vacant properties is in Downtown Vancouver, due to its density of condos.
But the highest vacancy rates were reported in the tony Kerrisdale and Shaughnessy neighborhoods, and in the dense West End.
The working-class Sunset neighborhood claimed the lowest rate. It is home to a high concentration of semi-detached/row houses and duplexes, according to the City of Vancouver.
Slight over one-third of the 1,769 properties deemed vacant in 2019 became occupied in 2020.
The empty homes tax — the first of its kind in North America — was introduced in 2017 to combat low rental rates and high rents.
It began as a one-percent levy on the assessed taxable value of a vacant property.
For the 2021 tax year, the rate will increase to 3 percent from 1.25 percent in 2020.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart claimed progress in increasing affordable housing stock in slides accompanying his address to the Vancouver Board of Trade last week.
“Since I was elected Mayor, I’ve secured a record $1 billion for below-market, rental housing,” Kennedy wrote in the slides, which he posted on Twitter.
Due in part to funding from the empty homes tax, “we’ve been able to deliver nearly 6,000 homes plus land for future projects geared towards non-market, social and supportive housing,” he added.
He also said that the city is on pace to approve nearly 100,000 new homes over the next decade.
Vancouver continues to lead the nation in the cost of rent.
A one-bedroom condo costs $2,216 per month on average, according to Rentals.ca.
The national average is $1,800 per month.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles is planning to put a vacant homes tax on the ballot for 2022 to confront its homelessness problem, according to Bloomberg.