Despite a meeting with B.C. Finance Minister Carole James last week, West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom said he doesn’t expect much to change regarding the speculation and vacancy tax in the city.
Since the tax’s implementation in early 2018, the mayor has been vocal about his opposition to it. While meant to target vacant properties and properties owned by real estate speculators, Milsom said that neither are prevalent issues in West Kelowna.
“I don’t think they really did their due diligence,” he said. “We knew, by individuals filing their property taxes, as to whether or not they were foreign owners. We realized very quickly that this tax would impact mainly Canadians.”
The mayor said there has been little explanation as to why West Kelowna was included in the tax in the first place.
“They never really gave us any details as to why,” he said. “They just added us in.”
Milsom said in West Kelowna the tax is mainly taking its toll on B.C. residents, those with summer homes and the job market.
“I’m not surprised by the numbers,” he said, citing that about two-thirds of those who pay the tax province-wide are foreign owners or satellite families.
“But in West Kelowna’s situation, that’s not the case. We have very few foreign owners and very few satellite families.”
He cited a Canadian Home Builders of the Central Okanagan report which said a 17 per cent reduction in jobs related to residential construction in West Kelowna came at the hands of the speculation tax.
As the tax is mainly affecting “good West Kelowna citizens,” Milsom joined several other mayors in asking James to implement an opt-in/opt-out system.
“I don’t think it’s fair to tax Canadians in that way,” he said.
Several mayors at the meeting were supportive of the tax, coming mostly from the larger cities, including Vancouver and Victoria.
“Many homes are unaffordable in those areas,” Milsom said. “The spec tax fit with other programs that help to reduce home costs in those areas.”
Milsom said James is taking the feedback from all of the mayors present at the meeting into consideration but is unsure if any changes will be made. She said if any changes need to be made, they would be done before the end of the year.
“What does that mean? When are we going to hear from her?” he said.
“It’s hard to say what she’s going to come back with.”
According to the Ministry of Finance, revenue from the tax totalled $115 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year and just over $1 million came from West Kelowna.