4 days left to submit empty homes declarations
City officials are warning that 11 per cent of Vancouver homeowners have just four days left to declare the status of their property or risk facing costly taxes and fines.
"We are sending out a strong reminder to homeowners across Vancouver to fill out their Empty Homes Tax declarations," Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters Monday.
The Empty Homes Tax program gives owners until Friday to divulge whether their property is their primary residence, a secondary residence, is rented out to tenants or is empty.
“Even if a homeowner occupies their property as their principal residence, rents the home to tenants, or is eligible for an exemption, they are still required to submit a declaration so the City can determine whether the Empty Homes Tax applies to them,” the city’s chief financial officer, Patrice Impey, said in a statement.
Those who don't submit their declarations by Feb. 2 will face a 1-per-cent Empty Homes Tax on the assessed value of their property. For a $1 million home, that amounts to $10,000 in taxes.
Those who don’t submit declarations will also have to pay a $250 non-declaration penalty.
Providing the city with false information about the status of a property can result in a $10,000 fine in addition to the tax.
The mayor has said the tax could put thousands of properties back on the rental market.
"There are approximately 25,000 empty or underused homes in Vancouver, according to the last Canada census. That's obviously unacceptable. When we have great job growth, population growth, we need to see our homes used as residences and not as investment properties or commodities," Robertson said.
"We're hoping to see lots of what were empty homes become part of the long-term rental supply."
On Jan. 9, the city launched an audit system in a bid to ensure homeowners comply with the program. Officials have also been informing residents about the initiative through radio, print, ads on bus shelters and mailed notices.
Critics of the tax, however, say it is unlikely to add to the rental housing supply.
Architect and real estate analyst Michael Geller said the majority of owners of empty homes are finding legal loopholes to get around the tax, such as getting a relative to sign a lease to make it look like someone is living at the property.
"I do not believe we'll see 25,000 empty homes coming onto the rental market," he said, adding that other owners might choose to sell their second properties or might simply pay the tax because "it's not that significant."
Instead of having people submit declarations, Geller said having neighbours anonymously tell the city if the homes around them are empty would be a more effective way of getting results.
"As I look at the garbage cans going out on my street, I know which are empty homes and which are occupied homes because the empty ones don't put out any garbage," he said.
Certain exemptions to the Empty Homes Tax exist for people who live in Vancouver part-time because of work, those who had to leave their home empty to seek medical care or those who live in condos where strata bylaws prohibit rentals.
Homeowners can submit their declarations by visiting City Hall, calling 3-1-1 or on the city's website.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson and The Canadian Press