Vancouver homeowner says Empty Homes Tax is hurting those with second homes

The Unfair Vancouver Vacant Homes Tax Coalition describes its purpose in the name. The group is calling on the city to do something as the Feb. 2 deadline for the empty home tax declaration approaches. 

© THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

Rainer Borkenhagen says the group is made of members that are mostly retired and live across the country, but still own homes in Vancouver.

Borkenhagen himself lives in Gibsons, but owns a condo in Vancouver.

He said he tried to rent his condo once, but it turned out it was more practical to keep it and use it whenever his family needed it.

“We come in to babysit, our other kids use it when they come into town, we use it for social reasons, we use it for medical reasons,” he said.

Borkenhagen said that even if they tried to rent it again, the rent would be too high to actually help younger people looking for a home.

“What Vancouver is trying to do is loosen up the rental housing for the millennials and the average rent for a millennial is somewhere between $900 and $1,200 a month that they can afford,” said Borkenhagen. “I have a $2,400 rental condominium."

He said the group sees the tax more like a penalty than anything else, noting they are not getting anything in return.

“Many of the people our age are thinking, in the long run, to keep our ties with our kids, we'll probably have to move back into Vancouver."

He said most members of the group have owned their homes in Vancouver for decades and still use them throughout the year. Members of the group say the new tax is discriminating against older residents, said Borkenhagen.

He said that if the city wants to create more affordable housing, it should tax everybody, not just those who own second homes.

Empty home declaration

But if you’re thinking about trying to get around the tax, be warned. Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee says those providing false information, or failing to declare are taking a big risk.

Failure to submit will result in an automatic assumption that the home is vacant and will be subject to the tax, which is one per cent of the assessed home value. Homeowners will also be subject to a $250 penalty for not declaring on time.

As for providing false information, Kyla warns it could lead to charges.

"You can end up with a criminal record if you're charged with fraud and convicted, it's a very, very, serious offence, it's considered a crime of dishonesty. So the consequences for it tend to be more severe,” she said.

The city created an audit program to make sure homeowners are compliant with the new tax. Some homes may be selected for an audit and can be asked to provide evidence to support their declaration as part of an audit program set up by the city.

 Vancouver has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates across Canada.

 

Provided by: Estefania Duran and Michelle Morton with Global News

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