Letter: Speculation tax outrage ignores the most vulnerable

Kelowna letter-writer says it’s the rich and development crowd who are against the new tax

To the editor:

City staff prepared a report in anticipation of a recent council meeting that was remarkable for how it refused to catastrophize the speculation tax.

According to staff, the worst impact the tax would have is a “quantitative loss” of 235 housing units per year that will not be sold to out-of-province buyers.

But is this a case of a glass half-empty or half-full? Last month, a local realtor reported there was a serious shortage of housing available in the Central Okanagan with only 701 residential detached single family homes for sale. To me, the “quantitative loss” looks like a positive development in that an additional 235 local families will have a chance of buying into the housing market.

City staff also figured a speculation tax would have a “qualitative impact” on the local market and economy with regard to “uncertainty” generated about the impact of new tax rules, and a “tempering” of Kelowna’s reputation as a welcoming and open community.

But in reality, who lives with the deepest uncertainty in Kelowna? Wouldn’t it be the workers and the families who can’t afford to buy local homes, and the tenants and the homeless who can’t find any housing at all?

The most recent CMHC data show that the average price of a single detached home in Kelowna was $897,982 in January 2018, up 20.7 per cent from January 2017. The rental vacancy rate in Kelowna has been the lowest in the country since late last year. I feel sure that anxiety-ridden workers, families, and tenants are immensely tired of hearing the elite squawk about how the speculation tax is going to have devastating consequences for their ilk.

Just how welcome and open is the community, anyway, in view of the survey of 200 local businesses done late last year that showed the would-be employers were unable to attract workers because of the housing crisis? The ordinary economy needs housing to be available in order for it to tick.

This is the economy that involves year-round residents who consume 365 days a year. This is the economy the mayor and council should be focused on, rather than the rarified economy that’s fired up by realtors, developers and builders and that serves the visiting rich, who pop in once or twice a year to consume.

City staff also talked about an expected three to five per cent increase in rental stock if the speculation tax is implemented. How much more welcoming and open would the city appear to be if this increase in rental stock materialized?

Would mayor and council care to break off from condemning the speculation tax in order to acknowledge this expected 1,500 to 2,500 per cent increase in rental availability?

Would they care to tell us how they would duplicate the increase in rental homes if they were to succeed in overthrowing the speculation tax in order to protect their friends, the big-appetite realtors, developers and builders?

Dianne Varga, Kelowna

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