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Vancouver city council votes against proposed tax shift to help businesses

Vancouver city council unanimously voted in opposition to a relief measure for local businesses Tuesday.

The proposal called for a two-per-cent shift in the commercial and residential tax distribution ratio over the next four years, with the goal of shifting some of the financial burden away from struggling small businesses.

The idea for the measure was brought forward by the Vancouver Business Improvement Association Partnership, which represents 22 BIAs across the city.

Despite the proposal not getting the support of council, some BIAs expressed that they will not be giving up.

“We'll certainly be back next year asking for a shift, but let's look at other tools and strategies that the city can employ to support business," said Teri Smith, executive director of the West End BIA.

"So, let's look at reducing unreasonable fees or reducing red tape, looking at the lengthy delays for permitting and licensing."

Vancouver commercial properties are currently sitting at about 11 per cent vacancy.

The group said a healthy range is five to seven per cent.

“Those businesses are gone," said Neil Wyles, of the Mount Pleasant BIA.

"They're not coming back. They're gone.”

Commercial properties contribute 41 per cent of the city’s property taxes but only occupy seven per cent of the land base.

The owners of those properties pay, on average, 3.4 times more than residents.

The call for a tax shift comes after council approved a 10.7 per cent property tax increase in this year’s budget, the highest in decades.

“It's an absolute squeeze," said city councillor Christine Boyle.

"And what I hear time and time again is how hard the cost of living is for Vancouverites whose wages aren't going up nearly as much as the costs that they're seeing are going up. So that's a balance for us."

Many of the councillors voiced their support for small businesses and said they want to find ways to provide that assistance.

They voted in favour of a motion to ask the Property Tax Review Commission to look at ways the city’s tax policy and tax shares could support small businesses. Top Stories

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