Councillor calls for review to protect Vancouver’s ‘heart and soul’ small businesses

Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware announced plans to close in the face of a 93 per cent property tax hike. Global News

Are Vancouver’s small businesses being taxed to death?

One Vancouver city councillor thinks so, and he’s calling for a comprehensive review of the city’s policies that’s aimed at protecting local enterprise.

READ MORE: Cardero Grocery closes its doors after more than 75 years in Vancouver’s West End

George Affleck argued that it’s not just residents that are sagging under Vancouver’s affordability issues.

Stories like that of Robson Street’s Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware, which announced plans to close in the face of a 93 per cent property tax increase, appear to underline his point.

LISTEN: Talking to the small business owners saddled with a 93 per cent property tax hike

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“What I’m hearing and seeing is that some business taxes are actually higher than their base rent. And that is not a good thing. And so we’re seeing as a result, certainly on the retail level, businesses closing,” Affleck told Global News.

A recent survey of Vancouver small businesses found 70 per cent of owners said their taxes had climbed by more than 20 per cent in the last three years.

Affleck said businesses in the city pay much higher taxes than homeowners do, and if something doesn’t change, there won’t be much left in the way of mom ‘n’ pop shops.

“We’re seeing the heart and soul of a lot of communities across the city losing those basic things that they need,” he said.

“Not only retail, like grocery stores, but we’re talking dentists’ offices, doctors’ offices, all of those kinds of things that you should be in walking distance of.”

He added that small businesses make up about 95 per cent of all enterprise in the city, and that they play a key role in employing people and driving the economy.

WATCH: Beloved West End pub closes in the face of high rent

Click to play video 'High West End rent forces pub closure' High West End rent forces pub closure
High West End rent forces pub closure – Apr 23, 2017

Affleck is taking a motion to council on Tuesday calling for a “systematic and comprehensive review” of city programs “designed to support and retain local small businesses.”

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City staff would be given three months to put together a plan that the city could use to protect local enterprises.

As a part of that review, he’s pitching the creation of a Small Business Retention program, which could potentially offer targeted tax breaks to some tenants.

Additionally, Affleck wants to see a Small Business Policy Council formed, in the mould of the city’s existing LGBTQ2+ and Renters Advisory Committees, to advise the city on issues affecting small businesses.

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