NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson staged campaign events to illustrate their housing and homelessness plans Friday, with Wilkinson confirming he would replace the NDP’s speculation and vacancy tax if he forms a government after Oct. 24.
Wilkinson travelled to Vancouver’s Yaletown condo towers, where investment properties were sitting vacant as prices soared in recent years. The B.C. Liberal government put on a 15-per-cent foreign buyer tax on Metro Vancouver property purchases in 2016, and then the NDP government imposed a “speculation tax” on vacant homes that extended to Victoria, Nanaimo and the Central Okanagan as well.
Wilkinson renewed his commitment that he intends to replace the speculation tax with one on pre-sale condo contracts being sold and resold before the project is built.
“What we need in the Lower Mainland is a tax on people who flip paper condo contracts before the building has even gone up,” Wilkinson told reporters Sept. 25. He called the NDP plan, which was cut back sharply after the B.C. Green party objected to it covering rural vacation homes, “a phoney speculation tax that doesn’t reflect speculation at all.”
Horgan said the speculation tax has seen 11,000 vacant homes rented out, to escape the tax by having a property occupied at least six months of the year. He spoke in front of a United Church low-income housing project in Coquitlam, promising the $110 million raised by the vacant home tax is going to government-supported housing projects like that one.
Wilkinson said the NDP government’s decision to buy run-down hotels and “warehouse” people in tent camps is directly responsible for big spikes in crime in Victoria and Vancouver.
“We need to have a full spectrum approach to housing, just like we did in the Liberal era when we put together housing projects that were supportive of people who needed help,” Wilkinson said. “Another housing project was simply providing people with a subsidy to their rent, so they could get on with their lives.”
Horgan acknowledged that housing prices are still rising in major urban centres, saying the Lower Mainland is still a desirable place to live and more supply is coming.
“There were complaints that there weren’t enough housing starts, and now there are too many housing starts,” Horgan said.
Wilkinson has argued that local government building regulations are too slow and need to be reformed.