Talk not enough, West Kelowna puts opposition to speculation tax in writing

After meeting B.C. premier to protest new tax, Mayor Doug Findlater reiterates position in a letter

After meeting with B.C.’s premier earlier this month to express his concerns about the province’s planned speculation tax and it’s anticipated impact on West Kelowna, Mayor Doug Findlater has put his thoughts on paper.

Findlater has written a letter to Premier John Horgan outlining the reasons West Kelowna is opposed to being included in the controversial tax plan.

“I am writing this open letter to you today to reiterate our grave concerns and to express our belief that the City of West Kelowna was added to the speculation tax using the following incorrect assumptions,” writes Findlater.

He goes on to state while the overall rental vacancy rate in the Central Okanagan is now 0.2 per cent, Canada Mortgage and House expects it to climb to a much healthier 2.5 per cent once in-stream rental units are built. And he says the statistics being used to justify West Kelowna’s inclusion do not include single-family house rentals or secondary suites, both of which have been encouraged by the city in recent years.

The city says there will be another 240 rental units built before the end of the year.

The mayor also states while there are expensive properties in his city, they inflate the average cost to $600,000. But there are 2,000 homes in West Kelowna valued at under $400,000, and they represent 16 per cent of the market. Homes valued under $500,000 represent 36.23 per cent of the market, adds Findlater.

“The tax implies West Kelowna is unaffordable. If that were true, growth would be stagnant in comparison to other areas,” states the mayor in his letter to Horgan. “In fact, West Kelowna’s growth has been steady for 10 years, at rates similar to the ones in other Okanagan communities including those not facing the prospect of the speculation tax.”

Only West Kelowna and Kelowna will be subject to the new tax in the B.C. Interior when it starts in the fall.

Findlater has said the prospect of the tax’s arrival has already stopped some development from proceeding in his city.

The letter says municipal revenue will be adversely affected and that will impact future infrastructure spending.

Findlater and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran met with Horgan in Kelowna last week to press their respective cases for exclusion from the tax, but there was no indication the government plans follow that advice.

The letter concludes by saying if West Kelowna is to be included as one of the tax areas—along with the Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the areas around Victoria and Nanaimo—an economic impact study should be conducted first.

West Kelowna has put together a 24-page booklet detailing its concerns about the tax and has sent it to the finance ministry.

Below is the text of Findlater’s letter to Horgan:

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
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