The implementation of B.C.’s Speculation and Vacancy Tax has led to an influx of calls to the Sooke Municipal Hall with property owners seeking clarity on how the new regulations will affect local property owners.
Under the new regulations, all owners of residential property in the designated taxable regions of B.C. (including the Capital Region District) must complete an annual declaration to exempt themselves from the tax. All residential property owners in those regions will be required to complete the declaration, which will be mailed directly to residences by mid-February.
The problem, said Sooke’s interim CAO Don Schaffer, is people don’t realize that since this is a provincial initiative, and the municipality has no control over the provincial regulation.
The most often asked questions seems to centre on the declaration form, but the municipality cannot provide or collect declaration information.
It also doesn’t have forms available at the Municipal Hall.
The best the municipality can do is to point people to the appropriate government websites or provide them with the toll-free number to call for information.
The province has described the tax as a key measure in tackling the housing crisis in major urban centres in B.C. where home prices and rental costs have gone through the roof.
But while the tax may have been conceived to address larger cities, the regulation does have an impact on smaller communities, including Sooke where the declarations are still required.
There are some exemptions to the requirement for declarations, including First Nations lands, islands that are accessible only by air or water, charities, housing co-ops, and some not-for-profit organizations.
The best bet for anyone with concerns about the new regulations or those who want some clarity on what, exactly is involved, is to visit the website, call toll-free at 1-888-554-2323 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the bright side, the province estimates more than 99 percent of British Columbians will be exempt from the tax.