Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses media from the front steps of council chambers on March 23. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses media from the front steps of council chambers on March 23. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Kelowna, West Kelowna still looking to opt-out of speculation tax

Mayors say spec tax has missed the mark, revenue largely coming out of Canadians’ pockets

Nearly three years later, mayors in Kelowna and West Kelowna are still trying to opt out of B.C.’s speculation and vacancy tax.

The spec tax, implemented in early 2018, is an annual provincial tax paid by residential property owners in specific regions across B.C. It was designed to discourage speculative buyers — those who purchase a property only to sell it when the market increases — and people leaving properties vacant in urban centres.

The province raised $88 million in revenue from the tax in 2019 and officials are touting that 70 per cent came from foreign owners and satellite families. However, in Kelowna and West Kelowna — the only two Okanagan municipalities subject to the tax — the opposite seems to be the case, with a majority of revenue being collected from Canadians.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom, have long been vocal about their issues with the tax — and both have sent letters to Finance Minister Selina Robinson requesting exclusion from it. Both say it is disproportionately affecting Canadians, not the speculative buyers it targeted.

Basran’s letter to Robinson states this is in part due to the “unique nature of Kelowna’s strong tourism market.” Close to 60 per cent of the $2.7 million collected in Kelowna came from Canadian residents, compared to the provincial rate of around 12 per cent. In West Kelowna, that number is even higher with nearly 70 per cent of the $1.4 million total tax revenue coming from Canadians.

“This reflects our community’s strong appeal as an attractive destination within Canada, and should be considered when evaluating the ongoing implementation of the program,” Basran wrote.

And, the effect in Kelowna as far as affordable housing goes has been “negligible,” according to Basran. While the tax increased the rental supply by around 110 units of previously left-vacant properties, that amounts to just a 0.7 per cent increase in supply given Kelowna’s estimated 17,000 rental units.

READ MORE: Snowy days ahead for the Okanagan and Shuswap

READ MORE: Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom in 2019. (File photo)

West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom in 2019. (File photo)

Milsom said people being affected by the tax often own vacation homes or are looking to retire in the community in the future. A number of those individuals have been in the community for decades, he said.

“If they do that … and they don’t rent it out, they have to pay the tax,” Milsom told Black Press Media. “It’s completely unfair.”

The tax is also prompting would-be buyers to look elsewhere, said Milsom, as people are scared off by the threat of an additional tax. This makes surrounding areas such as Lake Country, Peachland and Westbank First Nation land more attractive options.

Of the more than $7 million that has come from the two cities since the tax’s implementation, the mayors say it’s still unclear how or if that money has been re-invested, despite provincial promises to help fund affordable housing in the communities it was collected from.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsCity of KelownaCity of West Kelownaspeculation tax

Just Posted

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

People in Kelowna’s City Park on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Search crews looking for missing diver in Okanagan Lake near Kelowna’s City Park

At around 2:50 p.m., RCMP received reports of a diver missing.

The future of the Okanagan Lake watershed land use will be subject of a new study supported by a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation. (Contributed)
Grant to help develop Okanagan Lake protection strategy

Study receives $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

COVID-19 virus. (Black Press Media file)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Kelowna retirement home

The outbreak at Sandalwood Retirement Resort was initially announced by Interior Health on April 23

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) handed out fines to two anglers on Shuswap Lake who were both casting more than one line, in violation of provincial regulations, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (COS photo)
Conservation officers snag Shuswap anglers for unlawful fishing

Two anglers were given $150 fines for casting two lines at once, against provincial regulations

KCR Migrant Support Worker, Javier, had an exciting day escorting his son Ian with him during ‘Take your Child to Work Day’!
KCR: Volunteering is being part of a whole

KCR Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Lynda Saundry, born 1961, is charged with the murder of North Okanagan resident Barry Jones in July 2020. Saundry will appear in Vernon court May 17, 2021, to fix a date for a preliminary inquiry. (Facebook public photo)
North Okanagan murder suspect to be tried by judge and jury

Lynda Saundry is charged with the first-degree murder of Barry Jones in July 2020

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vernon Search and Rescue’s Legacy vessel is returning to Okanagan Lake for boating season, the society said Friday, May 14, 2021. (VSAR photo)
Vernon Search and Rescue vessel returns to Okanagan Lake

VSAR’s Legacy is back with a fresh coat of paint and some other upgrades

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Most Read