Our View: A provocative tax proposal

High home costs are increasingly pricing people out of the real estate market and raising questions about Metro Vancouver’s long-term affordability and sustainability.

High home costs are increasingly pricing people out of the real estate market and raising questions about Metro Vancouver’s long-term affordability and sustainability.

The market’s rise has been partly driven by an influx of foreign investment, including a steady parade of buyers from China. Meanwhile, the struggle continues to find new funding for TransLink for much-needed transit expansion without inflicting too much pain on already heavily taxed residents and motorists. Gas taxes, vehicle levies and tolls are all hugely unpopular. So here’s one provocative proposal that might help put a dent in both problems: Double TransLink’s current residential property tax rates.

But at the same time, create a home-owner grant that rebates 50 per cent of the TransLink tax. Like the homeowner grant on municipal property tax, the TransLink version would exclude second vacation homes and disqualify owners who aren’t Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.

There’d be no change in the $230 a year in property tax the average resident homeowner now pays TransLink for a typical $650,000 house in Metro Vancouver. Most working folks would notice no difference. But the transportation authority would suck twice as much cash from foreign buyers, other non-resident owners and speculators.

A $4-million luxury condo owned by a Shanghai business magnate or Alberta oil tycoon —who jets in once or twice a year—might bring $2,800 to TransLink each year instead of the current $1,400.

And why shouldn’t they pay more? They come to enjoy Vancouver’s legendary livability yet make no permanent commitment to the region and use scarce housing inefficiently.

And if a selective TransLink tax hike on non-residents or other owners of ritzy homes takes even a bit of the juice out of an overheated real estate market, so much the better.

 

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