September 19, 2014 10:00 pm
Updated: September 19, 2014 10:08 pm

COPE mayoral candidate proposes tax on vacant homes

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It’s no secret that renting or buying a home in Vancouver is extremely unaffordable.

The reality is that a lot of homes and condos in Vancouver are purchased, and then sit empty for years.

COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong wants to put a tax on vacant housing units.

Wong says the tax could be used to put towards affordable housing, but there are a lot of questions about how such a tax would be enforced.

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“The foreign ownership issue is a related problem in a lot of peoples’ minds,” says Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs. “It’s usually regulated at the provincial level, and it’s never been clear to me how you could justify a special tax on these kinds of places, and how much it would be.”

Meggs says there are homeowners who study overseas for six months at a time, and questions how the city would be able to determine which units are actually vacant.

Community activist Sandy Garossino says vacant homes are a sign of capital and money that are pushing people out of the city

“A city has to thrive on people living here,” says Garossino.

Romy Lindner, owner of rental agency “Happily Ever Homes,” says despite Vancouver’s incredibly low vacancy rates, several downtown neighbourhoods are “condo ghost towns.”

“Coal Harbour is at about 25 per cent vacancy right now,” says Lindner. “Even when you are driving over the Lions Gate Bridge, you can see lights out all over the place.”

Lindner says 48 per cent of investors are foreign, and many owners want to leave the units as-is, not wanting to deal with the hassles of being a landlord.

“They’re here for about three months out of the year, so it’s just easier to keep them as new,” she says.

“Average rental rate in Canada is $930, where in Vancouver it’s about $1274,” Lindner says. “Top three cities in the world — that’s what you get when everyone wants to live here.”

Watch the News Hour tonight for more on this story.

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