The B.C. NDP government is responding to the backlash from B.C. home owners against the speculation tax, and will have an update on its details within days, Premier John Horgan announced March 21.
Horgan told media Wednesday that finance minister Carole James will be sharing new details about the tax and how it will be implemented “in the days ahead.”
The annual 2 per cent speculation tax was announced in February’s B.C. Budget and currently applies to not-permanently-occupied second or vacation homes in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the Nanaimo and Capital Districts (including the Gulf Islands) and Kelowna and West Kelowna. B.C. residents would get a tax credit to “offset” that bill depending on how much B.C. income tax they pay, but all non-B.C. residents would be liable for the tax in full.
That has led to a huge outcry among owners of homes in affected areas who say they are not speculators, and cannot afford to pay the tax, which is $10,000 a year on a $500,000-valued property – especially those on low incomes who do not pay much B.C. income tax. Those from outside B.C. who own vacation homes – many of which are Albertans with property in the Okanagan – argue that they are not speculators and that they contribute greatly to the tourism economy, which is dependent on their dollars. A petition called “Stop B.C. Speculation Tax” had garnered nearly 14,000 signatures by March 22.
The local districts have also raised strong objections, with the Regional District of Nanaimo, City of Kelowna and District of West Kelowna all registering their protests with the B.C. government over fears of lost tourism and development.
However, although a tweak to the tax is expected to address some of these concerns, Horgan made no promises that the tax would be scrapped or radically altered.
He said, “My office has spoken to the Mayor of Kelowna as recently as yesterday. Minister James is responsible for the file and I have every confidence in her that she will be able to deal with the challenges that have been raised by some. I have to tell you there are a lot of people who are cheering us on and saying we have to stem the speculation.”
A survey by Insights West following the B.C. Budget found that four out of five respondents supported the NDP’s new housing taxes, including the speculation tax.