Letter: Speculation tax not great, but it’s something

Kelowna letter-writer says the City of Kelowna has been dragging its feet

To the editor:

A lot has been said about the pros and the cons of the government’s proposed speculation tax. As Christine Mettler of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition pointed out, the public meeting hosted by the BC Liberal gang on Sunday was more of a political rally than anything else. Even as a Democrat, I love it. The opposition is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

But then two days later at a housing symposium at UBC, Mayor Basran used a good portion of his luncheon speech to immediately address what you’d think is Kelowna’s biggest threat to housing: Whether or not out-of-province homeowners are going to see a 0.5 to two per cent increase in their property taxes on their second home. I’m not saying his comments aren’t reasonable; the bill is not perfect. It doesn’t target speculation perfectly (or even at all in some cases).

But it is doing what the City of Kelowna has a proven track record of not doing: Something.

We have one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in Canada at 0.2 per cent and that’s really disturbing. Personally, at 25 years of age and in the $20 to $25/hr bracket, I myself will never, ever, own a single detached house and that’s OK. But as a society, we have to ensure people like me at least have somewhere to call home or inequality will have truly reached its tipping point as it always does in every capitalist system every 180 years or so.

There is hope. City planners have been hard at work on a Healthy Housing Strategy complete with recommendations for zoning, parking, and tax exemptions, all aimed at increasing the stock of affordable housing. This document is too good to do justice in a letter so if you can get the nutshell summary from someone, do so. Unfortunately, as good as the document is, on our current trajectory only one or two of these items will ever come to fruition. Ultimately, the number that get through will be determined in municipal elections this October.

What I am concerned about is why this speculation tax is getting so much airtime by anyone other than the Opposition with nothing better to do. The decision is decided and was done so long before the 2018 B.C. budget was ever announced.

Indeed, this issue was decided last May in general election by people more concerned about the affordability of their first home, not their second. It was further decided by delegates at the NDP convention in Victoria in October. This is not a secret meeting by the way. Just ask Liberal MLA Steve Thompson, who was hard to miss in the room as a non-delegate observer. So this was not a surprise to me, other than the fact that the tax was not higher (3-5 per cent was mentioned) and not applied to the ALR.

Why it would be a blind-side to the mayor and council baffles me. But then again, this is the same council that brought exactly zero resolutions to UBCM last year. One of the only cities in B.C. to do so. How embarrassing. Certainly, If a lack of consultation is to blame there is something important to remember: We started it.

Kelly Hutchinson, Kelowna

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