WIN! Vancouver passes a tax on empty homes

Special update, May 2018: finding common ground, sticking to the plan, and following through with government positioned Gen Squeeze as a key player in realizing North America's first ever Empty Homes Tax.

One year after implementing the landmark new policy, the City of Vancouver invited Generation Squeeze back to the discussion table to explore which affordable housing initiatives to spend the projected $30 million revenue. This came after years of consultation, originating with our 2016 Code Red housing policy report where we walked the mayor and staff through ideas like the empty homes tax and more. 

After the city launched a public consultation effort to ask Vancouver residents where they would like to see the revenue spent, on May 17 Paul Kershaw joined BC Non-Profit Housing Association CEO Jill Atkey and Vancouver Affordable Housing's Abigail Bond to weigh in on the top ideas generated at the Empty Homes Tax Idea Jam. To date, $17 million has been collected through the new tax.


Congratulations are also in order for Gen Squeeze supporter Craig Jorgensen! His idea to focus on incubator housing for the missing middle and homeless was voted into the top four, really bringing things full circle for Gen Squeeze and our supporters who've worked on this issue for years. 

How everything originally went down

After four hours of debate at Vancouver city hall on Nov. 16, council voted to implement a one per cent tax on homes in an effort to return much needed housing stock to the market. The vote was passed 8-3, and is a major win for young people struggling to stay in the city. 

Generation Squeezed worked collaboratively with the City of Vancouver, including the Mayor’s office, to propose, shape and implement Canada’s first Empty Homes Tax. It's a signal of council’s genuine commitment to address the #CodeRed housing crisis in Vancouver. 

Why this is important

People who purchase homes for purposes other than living in or renting them out contribute to market forces that drive housing prices beyond reach for a large, and growing, proportion of younger Canadians.

The tax is a necessary step in addressing the problem that Vancouver’s economy fails younger generations as home prices leave our earnings behind. As reported in our recent academic study, “B.C. is the worst performing economy in Canada for younger generations,” hard work now pays off less for young residents in B.C. in comparison with any other province, with the problem being especially bad for Vancouver residents.

Intended outcome

While such a tax will not be sufficient to solve the #CodeRed problem of housing unaffordability in our biggest urban centres, it’s a necessary and bold step toward a comprehensive solution.

The tax has the potential to transition thousands of existing homes into the rental supply within a twelve month period, and at no cost to the public purse. Our organization offers strong support for this bold step on behalf of the thousands of allies in Vancouver who we represent.

Gen Squeeze in the media

Watch Executive Director Eric Swanson deliver real talk to Vancouver council members in this two-minute clip from Global News.

Special thanks

Are in order for everyone who signed our
Homes First petition, helping increase the degree of urgency on this matter with Vancouver city council members.

Next steps

Some will debate the rate at which the Empty Homes Tax should be set. Others will question how to measure when a home is empty, or what constitutes a principled residence exempt from the tax.

But this innovation is so important that we need mayors throughout B.C., and in many cities across the country, to implement similar measures. It may even be useful for other municipalities to adopt variations on the Vancouver answers so we learn from a diversity of approaches.  

Generation Squeeze applauds the City of Vancouver for its leadership in implementing the first Vacant Homes Tax in Canada, and we’re pleased to see that the City of Toronto is now likely to follow in its path.

See more wins

We’ve been on a roll lately. Learn about our recent campaign successes:


Let’s do more

We want to restore housing affordability for renters and owners — forever.

You can help by becoming a Gen Squeeze Member:


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