by Andrew Walden
In his May 30, 2019, ‘State of the City’ speech, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell claimed to have a sure-fire way to create more affordable housing—raise property taxes on so-called ‘vacant’ homes.
Pointing to a 1% ‘empty homes’ property tax imposed in Vancouver, Canada, Caldwell’s claims are being echoed in the local media:
We at Hawai’i Free Press very quickly and easily found Canadian news outlets reporting the story that isn’t being told in Hawai’i. Here are two typical examples:
Vancouver Empty homes tax not helping rental crisis
CBC November 29, 2018: …in its first year of implementation, the tax appears to be doing little to achieve its stated goal, while putting millions more dollars than expected into City of Vancouver coffers.
Numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show a mere 0.1 per cent increase in the city's primary market vacancy rate in 2017 — rising from 0.8 per cent to 0.9 per cent.
That's less than the 0.2 per cent increase in the vacancy rate across the rest of the Lower Mainland region, where there is no empty homes tax.
Meanwhile, revenue from the tax is expected to generate $38 million for the city in its first year of implementation, $8 million more than was originally projected. …
Revenue from the empty homes tax has been earmarked for affordable housing initiatives. So far, $7.5 million has been spent to cover the implementation of the tax and another $2.5 million in 2018 administration costs.
City council has so far allocated $8 million to various projects….
read … What Caldwell doesn’t want you to know
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Vancouver councillors support empty-homes tax despite dubious results
Globe and Mail, Feb 28, 2019
Vancouver’s precedent-setting empty-homes tax resulted in only 117 homes being converted to rented from vacant in the second year of its operation, according to a staff report.
And the agency that tracks Canada’s housing statistics noted that almost 1,100 homes were removed altogether from the rental market in the first year of the city’s empty-homes tax (EHT).
That means the proportion of Vancouver homes rented out fell to 24.5 per cent in 2018, compared to almost 26 per cent in 2017, said Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. analyst Eric Bond.
In spite of those dubious results, Vancouver councillors are not only supporting the tax for future years, but have approved tightening up the regulations to prevent some owners from avoiding it through loopholes in the current law….
However, staff and some councillors are wary of the mayor’s suggestion that the tax should be tripled from its current level of 1 per cent of assessed value in order to push even more owners of empty properties into renting or selling….
read … More Real News