B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver announce rate reduction for Canadian citizens paying new property tax on homes empty six months of the year or more. B.C. legislature, Sept. 9, 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Strata rental bans escape B.C. speculation tax through 2021, Carole James says

Vacant home tax won't apply to cabins accessible only by water

The B.C. government is changing exemptions to its speculation and empty home tax in urban areas, as it prepares to quadruple the rate charged for foreign owners and “satellite families” who don’t pay Canadian income tax.

Finance Minister Carole James announced Tuesday that the speculation tax exemption for strata properties where rentals are banned will end on Dec. 31, 2021. That date is after the next scheduled B.C. election, and the B.C. Liberal opposition has opposed the NDP speculation tax as a method to force property owners to rent out homes that are vacant six months or more per year.

Also to be phased out at the end of 2021 is an exemption for strata accommodation properties, or strata hotels, units kept in some condo buildings for tenants to rent out to visitors. An exemption for vacant land ends after this year, meaning it won’t apply to property tax bills until 2021.

The speculation tax was introduced in 2018, with both the rates and the areas of application altered after protests from owners and the B.C. Green Party. For Canadian owners, it now applies at an annual rate of 0.5 per cent of the assessed value of the property every year on secondary homes. For the 2019 assessment year, the tax rises to 2.0 per cent for foreign owners and satellite families, payable on 2020 property taxes.

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After rural areas including the Gulf Islands and parts of Vancouver Island were exempted, the tax now applies in the designated cities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Metro Vancouver and the Capital Regional District around Victoria.

James said Tuesday the tax is working as expected, applying mainly to foreign owners who buy properties as investments in a rising urban real estate market. The province is also increasing the identification required of corporations, trusts, partnerships and foreign owners, to close loopholes that would allow “beneficial owners” of properties to avoid the tax.

“I recognize that there are a variety of views on the speculation and vacancy tax,” James said. “There are those who oppose the tax and others who want to implement additional tax.”


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