West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater says his city should be exempt from the province’s new speculation tax on housing.
In a four-page open letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan that Findlater issued on Thursday, West Kelowna’s mayor says he wrote the letter “to reiterate our grave concerns and to express our belief that the city of West Kelowna was added to the speculation tax using the following incorrect assumptions.”
Horgan met with Findlater and Kelowna mayor Colin Basran earlier this month to discuss the speculation tax.
In his open letter, Findlater said that, in West Kelowna, the province got its numbers wrong regarding the vacancy rate and average residential property cost. He also said the speculation tax will harm municipal revenue and will also create an uneven playing field with other Okanagan communities that the tax doesn’t apply to.
Regarding the vacancy rate, Findlater said West Kelowna has a much different number than the 0.2 per cent statistic commonly used to describe the Central Okanagan’s housing crisis. In fact, the mayor said “the stats are based on vacancies of purpose-built rental accomodations and do not include single-family house rentals or secondary suites, which the City of West Kelowna has been encouraging through various policy amendments and updates over the past few years.”
Further, Findlater states “If your staff investigate the City of West Kelowna’s vacancy rate, they will find that for 2018 alone, there will be 240 rental units available to the market. Of these units, 75 units are not rented out, and the developer is looking for tenants. For this development alone, the City of West Kelowna is projecting a 31.25 per cent vacancy rate.”
As for the average house price in West Kelowna, Findlater said “West Kelowna (city) staff can only make an assumption as to what extent average value was used to include West Kelowna, as Ministry staff did not consult with us.”
Noting that some homes in the city are listed well above $1 million in price, which bumps up the overall house price, Findlater said “West Kelowna has close to 2,000 homes that are valued under $400,000, with an average value of $315,983. Homes in West Kelowna valued under $400,000 represent 16.03 per cent of the city’s market; and homes valued under $500,000 represent 36.23 per cent of the market. The question is, what does the Finance Ministry consider affordable?”