Randolf Richardson (Zhang Wen Dao)

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Vancouver's empty homes controversy

Monday, September 19, 2016 by Randolf Richardson 張文道

Throughout September 2016 the Vancouver City Council announced its intention to impose regluations on property owners who are not renting their "empty" (uninhabited) homes.  Some of the solutions they're considering, which I've heard talked about on local radio stations, involve high-maintenance options like monitoring usage and issuing penalties against non-compliant property owners, which I worry could be a violation of civil liberties since compulsion is a form of oppression that is contrary to Canadian national values (as per our Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I believe there is a better approach that is more fair (because it doesn't impose on freedoms) and carries a lower administrative burden.  I also believe that my solution could be particularly beneficial if implemented at the Provincial or National level, and it is as follows...

Empty homes in British Columbia, Canada

This is my suggestion for solving the empty homes controversy in British Columbia

  1. not limit, oppress, or otherwise violate the civil liberties of property owners
  2. be simple and straight-forward in their design (e.g., paperwork should be easy to understand)
  3. minimize costly administrative burdens (e.g., minimal or no enforcement efforts)

With these three ideals in mind, my suggestion is to divide the residential property tax into three types, and rely on an optional incentive - not mandatory compulsion - to encourage participation by property owners to rent their otherwise-empty homes to people.


Update the property tax system for residential properties by dividing the tax into three classes, which I refer to as types A, B, and C...


Same as the existing residential property tax rate.  This is intentionally so to ensure transitional simplicity for the majority of people who own only one property that is their primary residence.

The property owner(s) of multiple residential properties may select any one of their residential properties that is not 100% rented as their primary residence.

This rate is remitted directly when paying property tax.


Higher property tax rate than the Type A rate because this property does not qualify as a primary residence.  It shall, by default, be classified as an investment property that has not been rented to any tenants.

This rate is remitted directly when paying property tax.


Initially the same as Type B except that the property tax rate is reduced (discounted) because rental is calculated based on a combination of two factors: the total days during the taxation period in which the property was rented, and the area percentage of the property that was rented.

For example, since the discount would be calculated based on the number of days and area percentage of the property rented, if for 9 months only half of the property was rented, then for those 9 months only 50% of the discount would be applied to the Type B taxation rate.

To qualify, the property owner(s) must provide credible documentation for the residential rental that satisfies Rental/Tenancy regulation criteria (rental contract, payment records, etc.).

The Type B rate is remitted directly even when paying this property tax.  Upon confirmation of the Type C calculations, a refund shall be issued within 90 days, otherwise a notice explaining that the property did not qualify for the Type C rate shall be issued (also within 90 days).

If you'd like to contact me to share your perspective, I'd be delighted regardless of whether you agree with me.  My contact information is available on my contact page.

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