What it’s like to live next to a Richmond ‘ghost house’
Laura Gillanders would like to meet the neighbours a few doors away from her Richmond rental home but in six years she’s only seen one sign of life.
“About three years ago, I did see somebody here in the summer and I saw them leaving with a suitcase,” she told Global News.
“I was like, ‘Oh, do you live here?’ And they just said they are going to the airport and didn’t talk so that was the only time I’ve ever seen anybody here.”
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The 3,600-plus-square-foot home in the 3800-block of Earlmond Avenue in Richmond gets mail deliveries, garbage and green bin pick-ups, but does not appear to have any full-time residents.
“It’s just a shame to leave a house sitting empty for six years, it should be rented out”, said Gillanders, who has taken it upon herself to clear away overflowing mail and flyers delivered to the home and move the owner’s green bin to prevent it from blocking the makeshift gravel sidewalk.
Although she has no problem with being a good neighbour, Gillanders is sad to see the home, which was assessed at just over $2.7 million last year, vacant during a housing crisis. Last month, she took to Twitter to vent her frustration.
“Maybe the homeowners are so wealthy that they just don’t have any incentives to rent it out and they don’t want to,” Gillanders said.
Longtime city councillor Harold Steves estimates Richmond has some 500 vacant homes, including two in his own Steveston neighbourhood.
“We’ve got a lot of these huge houses taking up a lot of property that people should be living in,” said Steves, who wants to see an expanded empty homes’ tax.
“It is a provincewide problem all the way through all of Metro Vancouver and it should be solved as a provincial problem, rather than a local one.”
The City of Richmond told Global News there has been no direction from council at this time to consider an empty home tax.
While the topic has come up in the past, city spokesperson Ted Townsend said the majority of council “were unconvinced that it was necessary or that a tax would be fair or effective and at best wanted to wait and see if Vancouver’s tax proves to be effective.”
Townsend added that there are no firm numbers on empty homes in Richmond but most estimates show they represent a small percentage of residences.
The City of Vancouver says it will collect $30 million from its empty homes tax this year. The tax, implemented in 2016, charges owners one per cent of a home’s assessed value if it’s not a principal residence or rented for at least six months of the year.
The ghost house down the block from Gillanders’ home receives mail from Telus along with the City of Richmond and Canada Revenue Agency correspondence addressed to a Qiufen Zhu and Yanjie Lu.
Global News was unable to reach anyone associated with the home.
“It’s just such a waste of space,” she said.
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