“Rich people problems.”
That’s what I watched one man mutter to another, during one of the many discussions on how B.C.’s new speculation tax would affect the local real estate market.
A solemn nod, an eye-roll was given in return.
The exchange summed up what a lot of people across this province have been saying.
You see, it’s hard for us average folk to muster a lot of outrage about property owners being taxed on a home they don’t live in, but rent out on a short term basis for a pretty penny. Or worse yet, leave empty until it’s time for a wine tour and suntan, while they contribute to the economy of their choice.
READ MORE: MAYOR OPPOSED TO SPECULATION TAX
Sure. Everyone has the right to make a living and plan for a prosperous future. Everyone also has a right to bask in the geographical gloriousness that is B.C.
But should the rights of a few who get to live really well come at a cost to this province’s residents?
In the 2016 Census, Statistics Canada reported that 25 per cent of downtown Kelowna homes sit vacant or are not used as a primary residence. The figure for the Lower Mission was pegged at 17 per cent.
Conceivably, the owners of one of these half-million dollar homes would have to pay a couple thousand more in taxes if they choose to leave them empty or not park a long term renter within.
Some government representatives would say that it’s not fair.
But would you?
Disparity has become something we in the Okanagan and B. C. in general have become alarmingly comfortable with.
While there is a good supply of unoccupied homes in Kelowna, we are also suffering from one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country, according to CMHC.
READ MORE: WEST KELOWNA TO KEEP ON FIGHTING
That, in turn, has left us with the sixth or seventh (depending on the month) most expensive rental market in the country.
Unsurprisingly, the Central Okanagan had three cities with child poverty rates between 30 per cent and 40 per cent in the last Census. West Kelowna had the highest rate in the Kelowna CMA with 35.3 per cent living in poverty.
Levying a speculator tax isn’t going to alleviate these issues, per se.
But there are a lot of British Columbians who are aware of the disparities at play and aren’t jumping for joy every time they see their local governments greenlight an expensive development being built at the cost of shareable green space or the environment.
This budgets speaks to them. Those British Columbians have long had their needs ignored while the corporate and development community were given another leg up and that’s nothing to roll your eyes about.
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(This ran in the print edition of the Capital News Feb. 23)