Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Mayor Gregor Robertson, left, and Finance Minister Michael de Jong attend a news conference in Vancouver on Monday.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The British Columbia government will "intensively examine" the possibility of a tax on empty homes after an ultimatum from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who has called for such a measure to address the city's housing crisis and warned he will go it alone if needed.

Finance Minister Michael de Jong met briefly with Mr. Robertson on Monday, telling media afterward that their respective staff will, in the next couple of weeks, come up with a detailed proposal for the province to consider.

Mr. de Jong said he was pleased that Vancouver's proposed vacancy tax is centred on the issue of supply – creating an incentive for people to rent out their vacant properties – but reiterated his government's hesitation to impose a new tax. If approved, it would likely make Vancouver the only city in Canada with such a tax. "I'll be the first to say to you, candidly, I have been conscious, the government has been conscious, about drawing on taxation authority to address the housing challenges," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Last week, Mr. Robertson announced that the city was prepared to introduce a tax on empty homes "with or without the help of the B.C. government." The mayor's proposal would see the creation of a new business tax aimed at persuading owners of empty properties to rent them out. For any that don't, money collected from the tax would go to affordable housing initiatives, the mayor said.

Mr. Robertson had given the B.C. government an Aug. 1 deadline to begin collaborating on a new vacancy tax.

On Monday, the mayor said staff will explore ways to ensure the tax is fair. They will examine the definition of a vacant home, how the tax rate would be set and how an appeal process would work.

Such a tax was floated in Vancouver two years ago when long-shot mayoral candidate Meena Wong gained some traction with her proposal to charge some people for the privilege of letting property sit empty in the city. The spectre of nosy bureaucrats snooping on people's homes and a clear lack of data on the scope of the problem led few in power to embrace the tax.

Mr. Robertson said he has been speaking with Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle about the Australian city's housing affordability crunch and the feasibility of such a tax. Melbourne has also been mulling the idea of a vacancy tax to help fund various social programs.

"They're in a similar affordability crunch in dealing with a housing crisis similar to Vancouver," Mr. Robertson said. "[I've been] comparing notes with another big-city mayor who's confronted with many of the same challenges. We are seeing and hearing about this in many big cities around the world right now."

The city and province have planned to discuss the matter again in two weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

A recent city-commissioned study found that about 10,800 homes in Vancouver were left empty for a year or more. Vancouver's rental vacancy rate is 0.6 per cent, according to the city. Housing experts say a healthy vacancy rate is 3 to 5 per cent.

With a report from Mike Hager

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies