On March 5, 2018, the Empty Homes Tax declaration period for 2017 closed, with a total of 183,911 declarations submitted, accounting for 98.85 per cent of all residential property owners in Vancouver.
As this was the first year the tax was implemented, the findings from the 2017 declarations provide an important baseline for the city to compare all future results and better understand how the tax is influencing the behaviour of property owners.
“Vancouver housing needs to be for homes first, not just treated as a commodity,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, in a press release. “We brought in an Empty Homes Tax because Vancouver has a near-zero vacancy rate and many people are struggling to find a place to rent.”
Of the property status declarations that were submitted, 177,562 were residential properties occupied as either a principal residence or by a tenant. There were 8,481 unoccupied or underutilized residential properties, deemed so because they were either declared vacant, declared exempt or deemed vacant for more than 180 days in 2017. Properties can be eligible for an exemption for a number of reasons, including if the property was undergoing renovation or redevelopment or if the owner was residing in a hospital, long term or supportive care facility.
Condominiums account for 60.6 per cent of the unoccupied or underutilized residential properties in Vancouver, while single-family residential properties make up 33.55 per cent and multi-family or other properties account for the remaining 5.95 per cent. The largest number of unoccupied or underutilized properties was recorded in Downtown Vancouver. Specifically, the West End and Shaughnessy neighbourhoods recorded the highest percentages of unoccupied properties, relative to the number of residential properties in each neighbourhood that were required to declare.
This figure also includes the 2,132 properties that remained undeclared by the March 5 deadline. These undeclared properties have been deemed vacant, making them applicable to the Empty Homes Tax. Declared and deemed vacant properties will be issued a Vacancy Tax bill in mid-March, with payment due by April 16, 2018.
The Empty Homes Tax audit program uses a risk-based approach and random audits to verify property status declarations and encourage compliance with the new tax. As the program progresses, property status statistics for 2017 may be subject to change as the audits are completed and reveal whether property owners can provide evidence to support their declarations. The revenue raised by the Empty Homes Tax will be reported in an annual report to Council, which will be released in fall 2018.
Property owners that receive a Vacancy Tax bill and feel they have been incorrectly taxed may submit a Notice of Complaint to the city and have their case reviewed by the Vacancy Tax Review Officer. A Notice of Complaint may be submitted on the basis either the property owner or the city made an error or omission that resulted in the property being incorrectly taxed. The Vacancy Tax Review Office will review all complaints and use the information provided to gain insight on the impact of the tax and to influence future bylaw amendments.