Another protest by multimillion dollar homeowners
Certain owners of $3+ million homes — outraged over new housing taxes — are getting plenty of coverage. But how does their situation compare with the challenges faced by everyone else?

"Another week, another protest by multimillion dollar homeowners." That's how the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason kicked off a June 8 column featuring the findings of our #TaxShift campaign. [1] 

In it, he argues "there is something wrong with this whole debate" — namely, what he sees as too much coverage of protesting multimillion dollar homeowners, and too little coverage of this:  

"The prospect of never owning a home, or receiving a company pension of any kind, is a reality for tens of thousands of young adults.

"Those who live in expensive cities such as Vancouver and Toronto are forced to shell out obscene amounts of money to rent. Likely unable to have a house to one day use as their retirement plan, young people are told their only option is to save.

"But saving is tough when you’re forking out $2,200 a month for rent, paying off student loans, and making $60,000 a year..."

Exactly, and many residents of all ages share that same reality.   

When we spoke at David Eby's housing town hall earlier this month, there were many angry homeowners who feel unfairly targeted by new taxes, who feel they've worked hard for what they have, who don't want to defer their taxes (even though that's the solution for many), or who feel the real problem is speculation and foreign buyers. [2] 

Some even told us they'd like to see their home values drop, but take issue with additional property taxes until that happens, preferring capital gains taxes instead. [3]  

And we can empathize with those feelings, especially from those who are willing to do their part. We're also open to various options to further rebalance our tax system (like capital gains adjustments), which is why we're asking the B.C. government to establish a Tax Shift Special Commission.   

The bottom line is we need to refine things like the school tax and speculation tax, and then go even further toward a #TaxShift that benefits the vast majority: less tax on local income, more tax on unhealthy housing values, and better investments in young and old alike.

But it's been tough to advance a bold, nuanced approach when money and resources have been pouring into separate campaigns aimed at simply scrapping B.C.’s new taxes, with one of them raising more than $30,000 so far. [4] Now, it’s up to us to match those efforts and rise above the fray. 

By signing up for a pay-what-you-can Gen Squeeze Membership, you’ll help strengthen the voice of young people, renters, and everyone who shares our vision of a Canada that works for all generations.

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At the end of the day we're all in this together, and that means coming to terms with massive new inequalities between renters and owners, and young and old. [5] 

Nearly 500 people have written letters to B.C.'s Premier, Finance Minister and 74 local MLAs supporting a #TaxShift. If you haven't already, I hope you'll consider writing a quick letter, too. 


[1] June 8, 2018: "What about the poor multimillionaire homeowners?"

[2] Indeed, reducing harmful demand from global and domestic speculators is a key part of our own work to help restore affordability forever. David Eby is B.C.'s Attorney General and MLA for Vancouver Point Grey, a riding that contains many homes worth more than $3 million dollars, and many homeowners angry over a 0.2-0.4% increase in their property taxes. We were invited to speak as part of a non-partisan panel at a recent townhall. 

[3] Whereas our initial report emphasizes annual [deferrable] property taxes (e.g. a $1 million dollar home tax) as a means to advance a #TaxShift, we've always considered adjusting capital gains taxes to be a critical tool in the toolbox, and we'll be conducting our own research into that this summer. There are important reasons to not JUST rely on the latter, which we'll address in an upcoming F.A.Q. 

[4] This group has raised more than $30,000 to fight the speculation tax e.g. via a class-action lawsuit. While we agree with some of their critiques of that tax, we've aimed our sights at refining it and going even further to rebalance our tax system, to lower taxes on income, raise taxes on unhealthy housing wealth (while protecting house rich, cash poor residents and highly leveraged owners), and better invest in young and old alike.

[5] A #TaxShift can help rein in costs, but it also addresses larger issues of intergenerational fairness in public finance, which I speak to in that same column. I'm quoted saying: “We have an aging population, one that wants and needs more medical care, asking a younger generation to pay more for health care than they did. Meantime, house values are disproportionately helping an aging population, while that group is leaving larger bills to their kids’ generation. Is that the legacy they want to leave?” Certainly the answer for most aging Canadians is NO. In our own families, we take care of each other and do our best to leave at least as much as we inherited. We're all in this together, and that means coming to terms with statistical reality, which you can explore in our #TaxShift report.   

Headline photo by Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130

Eric Swanson
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Eric is the Executive Director of Generation Squeeze.
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