Revenues from the City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax have reached $106 million

The number of unoccupied properties in Vancouver continued to decline in 2020, with the local administration noting the EHT as a contributing factor.

According to the newly released report on EHT’s impact and performance for 2020, the city deemed, determined, or declared unoccupied 1,627 residential properties, down from 1,769 homes in 2019, 2,036 homes in 2018, and 2,193 homes in 2017, the first year of the strategy.

Furthermore, 36 percent of empty homes in 2019 were converted to occupied status in 2020. Condominiums make up the majority of exempt and vacant properties, accounting for 58 percent of all exempt and vacant properties.

Nearly half (47%) of the properties that qualified for EHT exemption in 2020, when the pandemic’s effects were at their greatest, were for property transfer reasons, followed by 29% for renovations, 13% for strata limitations, and 11% for miscellaneous reasons.

In 2020, 195,012 units were required to make a declaration, with 104,155 condominium units, 80,588 single-family dwelling units, and 10,269 units deemed exempt. This translates to 2,630 additional condominium units, 95 fewer single-family housing units, and 360 additional exemptions compared to the previous year.

The city has issued $146 million in EHT taxes and fines in the first four years of the programme, with annual figures declining from $39.1 million in 2018, $41.2 million in 2019, $37.9 million in 2018, and $27.8 million in 2021.

However, due to audits, disputes, and non-compliance, real collection of these taxes and fees is a different storey. The rate of non-compliance with the EHT has consistently decreased, from 7.5 percent in 2017 to a preliminary estimate of 4.1 percent in 2020. EHT has brought in around $106 million in revenue to the local government so far, including $33.6 million in 2018, $23.3 million in 2019, $27.9 million in 2020, and $20.8 million so far in 2021.

Following an agreed resolution by Vancouver City Council to raise the rate, the EHT tax rate will be 3 percent of the property’s assessed value starting in 2021, up from 1.2 percent in 2020.

To date, the city council has dedicated over $87 million in EHT profits to new affordable housing projects, including a $5.1 million allocation to the Vancouver Native Housing Society’s forthcoming social housing project at 1766 Frances Street this year.

The municipal administration is now taking declarations for the year 2021, which must be submitted by February 2, 2022. This is not to be confused with the separate Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT) imposed by the provincial government, which has a 2021 disclosure period of January 18 to March 31, 2022.

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