City councillor proposes to strengthen enforcement of Vancouver's housing laws, to catch those evading the Empty Homes Tax or short-term rental regulations
VANCOUVER (Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Territories) -
OneCity Vancouver Councillor Christine Boyle today called on Mayor Ken Sim and City Council to refuse to cut the Empty Homes Tax (EHT) - and instead invest in stricter enforcement of our city’s housing laws.
“The Empty Homes Tax is working. It’s making more housing available to renters, and bringing in revenue to fund more affordable housing,” said Christine Boyle, City Councillor, OneCity Vancouver. “Vancouver suffers from a crippling shortage of every type of housing. Cutting the empty homes tax would be cutting the owner of every pied-a-terre, cottage, vacation home and empty investment property a sweetheart deal. That would be a major step backward in our work to address Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis.”
At just 0.9 per cent, Vancouver continues to experience the lowest vacancy rates, and highest rents, of Canada’s major cities. The EHT is one tool in the toolbox for addressing this crisis. Between 2017 and 2020, the number of empty homes fell by more than 25%, and since 2017, the EHT has brought in $115.3M which has been allocated toward new non-market housing and support for renters.
There are reasonable proposed exemptions to the EHT, such as medical reasons or repairs after a fire or flood, that OneCity supports. But one proposed exemption - newly built condos - is unacceptable.
“Condo prices have just started to drop. Falling prices are good for many Vancouverites, especially young families trying to buy their first home,” continued Boyle. “It's critical that City Council think about those looking for housing, and refuse to exempt new-build condos from the EHT."
Instead of cutting the tax and rewarding housing rulebreakers, Councillor Boyle proposes to strengthen enforcement of the city’s housing laws. This would include investing resources in enforcement of the EHT - but also enforcement of other housing laws, like renter protections, and short-term rental regulations.
“My ABC colleagues have spoken at length about the need to strengthen law enforcement in this city. I hope they will join me in deciding to more strictly enforce our housing laws,” continued Boyle. “Our crisis is too dire to discard even one tool from our toolbox.”
In Vancouver, short-term rentals are only permitted if the owner is renting out part of their primary residence. Despite this fact, many Airbnbs continue to operate in contravention of City bylaws, withholding badly-needed units from the rental market. This is unacceptable. The City must enforce its laws.
Lesli Boldt, a City Council candidate in the 2022 municipal election, and a renter in the South Granville neighbourhood, supported Boyle’s call for the City to strengthen enforcement of municipal bylaws that increase access to rental housing.
“During the municipal campaign last year, I heard from so many homeowners and renters alike concerned about illegal short-term rentals in their buildings and neighbourhoods,” said Boldt. “Unfortunately, low penalties for breaking the rules and a complaints-based approach to enforcement means that there are illegal short-term rentals operating unchecked in our city. Now is not the time to weaken measures like the EHT that increase rental housing supply; instead, we need to step them up and strengthen them.”
The EHT, and stricter short-term rental enforcement, are not the only tools needed to address our housing shortage. It remains necessary to substantially speed up building permitting time, and to end the apartment ban in Vancouver, allowing new affordable rental homes to be built in neighbourhoods formerly set aside for single-detached houses. OneCity Vancouver will continue to champion all of these tools to address the housing crisis and build a city where everyone belongs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
OneCity Vancouver communications committee