Vancouver City Council Passes Empty Homes Tax

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Vancouver has voted to implement a one per cent tax on empty homes in a bid to alleviate the city's crunched rental housing market.

The tax, which is the first of its kind in Canada, will apply to non-principal residences that are left empty for six months of the year or longer.

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An apartment building in Vancouver. (Photo: Lyle Stafford/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Home owners will be required to self-declare whether their property is vacant and could be subject to fines up to $10,000 for false reports.

Properties under renovation, owners who are in hospital and condos with strata rental restrictions will all be exempt from the tax.

Eight city councillors voted in favour of the tax Wednesday, while three opposed the levy.

Councillors also directed city staff to work with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and other organizations to collect data on possible impacts of the tax and report back next year.

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Gregor Robertson at the Toronto Affordable Housing Summit in September. (Photo: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has said the main goal of the tax is not to bring in money, but to encourage owners to rent their properties in a city with the lowest rental vacancy rate and highest rents in Canada.

He says revenues will go towards paying for the program and supporting affordable housing initiatives.

Staff hope to have the levy in place for the 2017 year, with the first payments expected in 2018.

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