Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart promises to triple empty home tax

Click to play video: 'Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart makes housing policy announcement'
Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart makes housing policy announcement
At a press conference held Monday morning, Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart speaks to the press about his plan for the city's affordable housing crisis – Sep 10, 2018

Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart has promised to triple the empty home tax if he is elected.

Stewart unveiled the first part of his housing plan, with the second part focusing on renters set to be released on Wednesday.

Stewart, who is running as an independent, is focusing on fighting speculation in the housing market by increasing the tax to 3 per cent on any home deemed empty and ensure that foreigners cannot buy between one-third and one-half of all new homes built in Vancouver.

“Vancouver is an amazing city, attracting people from across Canada and around the world. But despite all the construction happening around us, everyone but the very wealthy is finding it harder and harder to live here,” said Stewart. “To make sure our city works for everyone, we need to make sure we have housing that’s affordable for everyone.”

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In April, the City of Vancouver announced it will collect $30 million in revenue this year from the newly-implemented empty homes tax. That revenue will go towards affordable housing in Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax (EHT) department, collected property declarations from 98.85 per cent of homeowners in the city by its March deadline.

The city said it collected a total of 183,911 submissions, of which 177,562 were occupied. It said 6,349 were declared vacant — some with exemptions. And 2,132 were homes for which the owner did not fill out the paperwork, and thus were deemed vacant by the city.

Stewart resigned his seat as a NDP MP to run for mayor but will continue to collect a paycheque until Sept. 14, the last day he can file paperwork for the mayoral race.

WATCH HERE: City of Vancouver releases empty home tax revenue total

Click to play video: 'City of Vancouver releases empty home tax revenue total'
City of Vancouver releases empty home tax revenue total

Housing has become the most important issue for voters in the upcoming municipal election.

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Stewart’s platform includes a commitment to build 25,000 new non-profit affordable rental homes over the next 10 years for those households making $80,000 a year or less. The City of Vancouver would have to work with the provincial and federal governments to receive funding for the projects.

Stewart has promised to create more non-market and supportive housing for vulnerable citizens and targeted housing solutions for Indigenous peoples, cultural communities, seniors, and people living with disabilities.

On permitting, Stewart has promised to ask for more clerical staff to reduce wait times for small- and medium-sized developers and homeowners.

Shauna Sylvester, another independent mayoral candidate, also recently released her housing plan. Her six-point plan is designed to tackle the housing crisis and includes using city land and assets for housing and support services.

She has also promised immediate lease renewals on all existing co-ops, to encourage purpose-built housing through faster permitting and specific fee waivers for homeowners creating affordable housing and creating targeted housing authorities to enable workers to live where they work.

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“I love this [city] and I don’t want to see it become a resort town,” Sylvester said. “I am ready to devote my time, energy, and brain power to collaboratively address this housing crisis,”“The housing crisis affects all of us and we cannot rest until we have a three per cent rental vacancy rate and the price per square foot for housing in this city is a better match with typical wages.

“We have spent too many years embroiled in a conversation narrowly focused on building more supply. The real focus must be on providing what the people of Vancouver need.”

— With files from Simon Little

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