Sooke wants out of B.C. housing tax

Speculative tax plan receiving push back from many communities on the Island

Sooke is adding its voice to those calling on the province to rethink its planned property tax speculation.

Sooke councillors on Monday agreed to write the province asking for an exemption. Coun. Ebony Logins opposed the motion.

“We are in a housing crisis and we do have to make accommodations for that. It’s not something we can forget about and pass to the backburner,” Logins said.

“It is extremely clear in the Ministry of Finance report that 99 percent of B.C. residents will be exempt from the sepculation tax. To me that said, we’re here fighting for the one per cent, and I’m not here to fight for the one per cent.”

The speculation tax, intended to improve housing affordability, is aimed at people who own multiple properties and leave them vacant. Homeowners can avoid the tax by renting their property for at least six months in a year.

The legislation, coming this fall, would place a two per cent tax on a property’s assessed value for foreign investors, one per cent for Canadian citizens living outside B.C. and 0.5 per cent for British Columbians who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

It applies to properties in the capital region, with the exception of the Gulf Islands and the Juan de Fuca electoral area. It also applies to Nanaimo-Lantzville, Metro Vancouver, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission.

“I think it’s part of a bigger solution,” Mayor Maja Tait said.

“We’re lumped into this because we’re part of the CRD. In some ways, I disagree with us being in an urban centre facing this crisis, although we’ve had [many] delegations concerned about housing.

Several Island communities have expressed concerns ober the speculation tax, with Langford Mayor Stew Young going as far as calling it a “job killer.”

Sidney council voted to ask the province to take a second look at the tax, while Parksville and Qualicum, initially included in areas covered by the taz were subsequently dropped.

Tait said if Parkville, Qualicum and Squamish can be exemprted from the tax, there should be an argument for Sooke, too.

“We are a tourist destination. We do have people coming here from other parts of the country … We’re an attractive place to live.”

The speculation tax will be administered outside the existing property tax system. Notices are to be mailed out to direct out-of-province property owners to a finance ministry website that will detail the various exemptions. Paper and phone options will also be offered.

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