Kelowna mayor says speculation tax on empty homes isn't going to help rental crisis - InfoNews

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Kelowna mayor says speculation tax on empty homes isn't going to help rental crisis

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
March 13, 2018 - 11:45 AM

KELOWNA - Mayor Colin Basran says people who think council’s concern with the provincial speculation tax shows it only caters to the rich and powerful should think again.

“The actions this council is taking on affordability issues, availability issues of housing, the Journey Home strategy, the Way Home strategy for youth, our rental housing incentives, the fact this council has approved more purpose-built rental housing than any council in our city’s history,” the mayor said, speaking after Monday’s Kelown council meeting.

Basran says he’s seen complaints his council has been one-sided on the homelessness and housing affordability file on social media and says they are unfounded.

“There’s a number of different initiatives where if you have been paying attention to what council is actually doing, it paints a different story,” the mayor said. "We don't just care about the one per cent or developers or people outside our community, but it’s a complex situation.”

Basran says the two per cent speculation tax introduced in February and extended to Kelowna and West Kelowna caught the city by surprise, but it doesn’t change the philosophy behind its broad-based housing and homelessness strategy.

“What we want is a balance for everything. We want a strong economy where people visit our community. We want a community where people from elsewhere invest and we need to ensure our low and moderate income-earners don’t continue to be squeezed out here,” Basran added. "Then our economy really suffers because there’s no one to work the jobs.”

Basran said council does not dispute the need for rental housing or the pressure on people who live in the rental market but says he thinks the speculation tax, as it stands, isn’t going to achieve the goal of increasing rental housing supply.

“This doesn’t cut down on speculation,” he added. “This is an empty home tax."

Basran said city staff are working to gauge the impact of the tax and said a prelimary report would be available soon.

Meanwhile, the mayor said he will bring council’s concerns to provincial finance minister Carole James during a scheduled call.

Basran said he is encouraged by signs the province is reconsidering at least some aspects of the speculation tax.

“That’s a good thing, recognizing again something needs to be done, just not necessarily this,” Basran added.

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