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More than 98% of homeowners declared by Empty Homes Tax deadline

March 7 2018

“Vancouver housing needs to be for homes first, not just treated as a commodity,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Apartments in the Vancouver's West End

The Empty Homes Tax declaration period for 2017 closed on March 5, 2018, with a total of 183,911 declarations submitted, accounting for 98.85% of all residential property owners in Vancouver.

As this was the first year of implementation of the tax, the findings from the 2017 declarations provide an important baseline for us to compare all future results and better understand how the tax is influencing the behaviours of property owners.

“Vancouver housing needs to be for homes first, not just treated as a commodity,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We brought in an Empty Homes Tax because Vancouver has a near-zero vacancy rate and many people are struggling to find a place to rent. Thank you to the 183,911 Vancouver homeowners—just over 98%—who submitted their declarations on time.” 

Declaration statistics for 2017

  • 183,911 property status declarations submitted
  • 177,562 occupied residential properties (declared principal residence and declared tenanted)
  • 8,481 unoccupied/underutilized residential properties (declared vacant, declared exempt, and undeclared/deemed vacant)
    • Includes 2,132 undeclared residential properties

Unoccupied/underutilized residential properties

A total of 8,481 residential properties were declared or deemed to be unoccupied/underutilized for more than 180 days in 2017. This figure not only includes properties that were declared vacant, but also properties that claimed one of the various exemptions to the tax.

Properties can be eligible for an exemption based on a number of reasons, including:

  • if the property was undergoing renovation or redevelopment, title transferred during the year, or
  • the owner was residing in a hospital, long term, or supportive care facility. 

Properties that were undeclared at the March 5 deadline are also included in the number of unoccupied/underutilized residential properties. These undeclared properties have been deemed vacant and are therefore subject to the Empty Homes Tax.

Declared and deemed vacant properties will be issued a Vacancy Tax bill in mid-March with payment due by April 16, 2018.

Unoccupied/underutilized property types and locations

  • The majority of the 8,481 unoccupied/underutilized properties are condominiums, which account for 60.6% of this figure.
  • Single-family residential properties account for 33.55% and multi-family/other properties for 5.95%. 

Aligning with the high density of condos in the downtown core, the largest number of unoccupied/underutilized properties was recorded in Downtown Vancouver. The West End and Shaughnessy recorded the highest percentages of unoccupied properties, relative to the number of residential properties in each neighbourhood that were required to declare.

Percentage and number of unoccupied/underutilized residential properties per neighbourhood

Neighbourhood Number of
unoccupied/
underutilized
Percentage of
unoccupied/
underutilized
Downtown 2244 7%
West End 735 8%
Kitsilano 598 4%
Fairview 486 4%
Renfrew-Collingwood 424 3%
Mount Pleasant 418 4%
Kensington-Cedar Cottage 352 3%
Dunbar-Southlands 350 5%
Marpole 272 4%
Hastings-Sunrise 254 3%
Grandview-Woodland 236 3%
Arbutus-Ridge 230 5%
Oakridge 228 6%
Killarney 225 3%
Riley Park 224 4%
Kerrisdale 215 5%
Shaughnessy 213 8%
West Point Grey 200 5%
Victoria-Fraserview 197 3%
Sunset 180 3%
South Cambie 105 4%
Strathcona 86 5%

Audit program

The Empty Homes Tax audit program is underway. Using a risk-based approach, as well as random audits, the program has a goal of verifying property status declarations and encouraging compliance with the new tax. As the program progresses, 2017 property status statistics may be subject to change as the audits are completed and reveal whether property owners can provide sufficient evidence to support their declarations.

As required by the Vancouver Charter, we will report on the revenue raised by the Empty Homes Tax in an annual report to Council, which will be released in the fall of 2018. 

Appeals process

Property owners who receive a Vacancy Tax bill and feel they have been incorrectly taxed may submit a Notice of Complaint to the City and have their case reviewed by the Vacancy Tax Review Officer. A Notice of Complaint may be submitted on the basis that either the property owner or the City made an error or omission that resulted in the property being taxed.

The Vacancy Tax Review Office will review all complaints and use the information provided to gain insight on the impact of the tax and to influence future bylaw amendments.