Although last month the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) delegates endorsed an Oak Bay motion urging the provincial government to give communities the right to choose whether to impose a speculation tax, Finance Minister Carole James said Tuesday she is moving ahead with the tax despite mayors calling for changes.
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said he was hoping for a different outcome.
“I certainly had hoped that the government would have at the very least sat down with the Union of B.C. Municipalities and looked at that recommendation, which was near unanimous at the [UBCM] convention recommending that a vacancy tax be administered locally and decided locally,” he said. “They obviously decided that it’s better to do it on a provincial level.”
“Certainly the goal of the [provincial] government is more housing availability and affordability, but my thought still remains that it would’ve been as good, if not better, to have that have down at the local level,” he continued.
“It seems like it’s going to be a provincial policy and we’ll have to make the best of it,” he added.
James said Tuesday that although she’s had discussions with a number of B.C. mayors, when faced with a major provincial crisis it’s the responsibility of the provincial government to act, “not to let municipalities pick and choose whether they want to address affordable housing.”
“Affordable housing is a crisis and it’s our responsibility as a government to act on that,” she said.
There are concerns about what the tax would mean to the community of Oak Bay and others that have many residents maintaining one home here and another away, only spending a portion of the year in the community.
Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and leader of the B.C. Green Party, said Tuesday he is concerned that the tax may land on property owners who are not speculators.
The tax was scaled back in March to exempt rural recreation properties. The Gulf Islands, the Juan de Fuca region in Premier John Horgan’s constituency, Parksville and Qualicum Beach are being exempted. The municipalities of Nanaimo, Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission would still be included, as are the cities of Kelowna and West Kelowna, when the tax takes effect in 2019.
– With files from Keri Coles & Tom Fletcher
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