Big majority backs absentee homeowner tax: Poll

Foreign ownership debate 'racist' to some poll respondents, but most agree non-resident property owners don't add to community

Failed Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong proposed a tax on absentee owners in last fall's municipal election campaign.

Failed Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong proposed a tax on absentee owners in last fall's municipal election campaign.

Nearly three-quarters of B.C. residents support a tax on absentee homeowners to help quell real estate speculation, according to a new poll.

The Insights West online survey found 73 per cent rated it a “good” or “very good” idea, while 17 per cent called it a bad idea and 10 per cent weren’t sure.

The poll also found 76 per cent of homeowners believe the value of their own homes is raised when foreigners buy into the market.

Eighty-six per cent of respondents believe people who own homes but don’t live in them are speculators and not really part of the community.

RELATED:Critics doubt value of real estate speculation taxRennie: Vancouver needs density, millennials need hope and a solution

Opinions were also broken down by ethnicity and the poll found 35 per cent of East Asian respondents – 21 per cent of all respondents – believe the debate about foreign real estate ownership in B.C. is “inherently racist.”

Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco said that’s a problem for policy makers trying to find a proposal that won’t alienate important groups of voters.

“You don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize some of your votes,” Canseco said.

“There’s a group of people – one out of three East Asians – who whenever they hear about this discussion of a tax for absentee homeowners they do believe it’s question related to race and not necessarily related to economics.”

Despite the discomfort of some with the foreign ownership debate, the poll found East Asians just as supportive of an absentee owner tax, which was championed last fall by failed Vancouver mayoral candidate Meena Wong.

Seventy-three per cent of East Asians back the idea as good or very good, while 74 per cent of self-described “whites” backed it and support was strongest of all among South Asians at 83 per cent.

East Asians were also strongly in agreement (88 per cent) that absentee owners are speculators and not contributing to the community.

Questions have been raised about the practicality of enforcing an absentee owner tax, and Canseco acknowledged the issue is more pressing in Vancouver and nearby municipalities where house prices have soared the most.

He pointed to New York City as one jurisdiction where such a tax is in the works.

“The way we feel about this with big houses in the City of Vancouver is the way they feel about it in the City of New York with big penthouses,” he said.

Owners of New York luxury apartments worth more than $5 million who can’t prove they live there at least six months a year will have to pay a minimum 0.5 per cent property tax surcharge, escalating in steps to four per cent for units worth more than $25 million.

“They’re trying to find ways to make those people pay their fair share because they’re only there two weeks a year so they’re not paying it in sales tax,” Canseco said, suggesting something similar might work here.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and condo marketer Bob Rennie last month proposed a tax on real estate speculation, although some observers questioned whether short-term flipping is the real problem.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong has pledged to explore tax mechanisms to support housing affordability, but has also cautioned he intends to tread carefully to avoid damaging the equity built up in the homes of existing residents.

The poll found 77 per cent of Metro Vancouver respondents support an absentee owner tax, compared to 74 per cent on Vancouver Island and 58 per cent in the rest of B.C. Support was also strong across all age groups, income levels and political persuasions.

The survey of 825 B.C. adults was conducted in mid-May with a margin of error of 3.5 per cent.

The poll also underscored the popularity of real estate as an investment. It found 38 per cent of B.C. residents rated real estate the “best long-term investment you can make”, while 18 per cent weren’t sure, 16 per cent named mutual funds, 10 per cent said GICs, eight per cent said stocks, another eight per cent said gold and one per cent said bonds.

Just Posted

Oak Bay police issued these surveillance images after a theft from the Cork & Barrel liquor store. The bottle of stolen whisky was valued at $4,636.99. (Courtesy Oak Bay Police Department)
Suspect swipes $5,000 bottle of whisky from Oak Bay liquor shop

Fiat towed after driver fails field sobriety test

Mieran Loira, who works at Moxie’s restaurant on Yates Street, was named a winner in the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association’s #StandUpForService campaign. (Courtesy Town Hall Brands)
Victoria Moxies server can’t hide her smile, earns provincial kudos for pandemic work

Personality, charisma shine despite masks, coronavirus challenges

Victoria police found and returned this tricycle to a local graphics company after it was reported stolen in downtown Victoria last week. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
UPDATE: Police find stolen tricycle, return it to Victoria company

The three-wheeler was taken from the 2100-block of Store Street on June 17

Swanwick Ranch in Metchosin, featuring an award-winning home on 67 acres of property overlooking the ocean, recently sold for a record-setting, yet undisclosed amount. (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada photo)
Sale of oceanfront property in Metchosin yields new record for Greater Victoria

Listed at $14.1 million, Swanwick Ranch sold to an undisclosed buyer

The Jordie Lunn Bike Park officially opened in Langford on June 22. (Kiernan Green/Black Press Media)
Tires hit the dirt for Jordie Lunn Bike Park opening in Langford

Legendary local rider remembers by family, friends

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk at school and in the community was identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

Most Read