EDITORIAL: What value do vacant homes bring to a community

The reaction to the province’s decision to impose a tax on vacant homes in B.C.’s hot housing markets has created a tale of two cities within the Capital Region.

Letters are being sent out to homeowners across Greater Victoria, giving them opportunity to seek exemption from the speculation and vacancy tax. Owners who don’t use the home as a principal residence or rent it out at least six months of the year will be required to pay the tax, set at 0.5 per cent of a home’s assessed value (meaning a $1 million home carry a $5,000 tax for an absentee owner).

The provincial government says the tax is a key measure to tackle the housing crises in B.C. urban centres where prices and rents have stretched out of the reach of many residents.

The idea has been embraced in the City of Victoria, where Couns. Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday are seeking provincial approval to introduce a surtax on vacant residential buildings within the city.

READ MORE: Victoria city council seeks authority to tax empty homes

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps noted that there were over 26 vacant or abandoned buildings that the city knew of, but had no authority to touch.

“If we had this we would have the authority to go around to every boarded up building that is a blight and tax it or do some kind of mechanism to have it back in productive use,” Helps said.

READ MORE: Langford mayor says City threatened during meeting over speculation tax

It’s an approach in stark contrast to one adopted across town in Langford, where Mayor Stew Young vows to continue the fight against the speculation tax. Young sees the tax as a job killer. He says his community relies on the building industry and the introduction of the speculation tax has resulted in a slowdown in projects and investment.

Greater Victoria is seeing a boom in construction activity, with many of the projects focused on residential rental properties. It seems counterintuitive that there would be a huge demand from developers interested in properties that would remain vacant for most of the year.

There still may be some willing to invest millions in the expectation that the real estate market will continue to soar forever skyward. However, government’s priority shouldn’t be to ensure that speculators will always be able to line their pocket’s at a community’s expense. A community is more than simply a collection of homes, and vacant housing does nothing to increase the value of the communities we choose to call home.

Just Posted

New virgin queen headlines ‘Bee Day’ at Saanich sanctuary

Taste bee spit and check out the hive at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary this Sunday

Hills to Shore artists open gardens, studios to public

Annual home artist tour visits 11 locations May 25 and 26

Several hundred SD 62 students team up to clean the shoreline

Effort aimed at keeping Esquimalt and Albert Head Lagoon trash-free

Mom who lost son to brain tumour in March joins the 24th annual Brain Tumour Walk

The Brain Tumour Walk takes place at the University of Victoria on Sunday, May 26

Saanich’s Falcon Gymnastics finish season with three titles at own tournament

Club hosted the 37th annual Garden City Invitational over May long weekend to wrap up season

VIDEO: Canadian, U.S. Coast guards run oil spill response drills

20 vessels were on the water to practice international response methods

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Young Victoria distillery earns prestigious Scotch awards

Scottish influences range from techniques to ‘kilted tours’ at award-winning business

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana growing ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Brewpub offers ‘boat valet’ for paddlers during Surfrider celebration tonight

Free ‘Surf Formal’ evening features a local art auction, door prizes, live music

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the southern Interior

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

Building a close-knit community in Sooke

Knit 2 Purl Together a community event

Most Read