West Kelowna economy under threat by speculation tax, says mayor - InfoNews

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West Kelowna economy under threat by speculation tax, says mayor

March 06, 2018 - 1:13 PM

WEST KELOWNA - Mayor Doug Findlater predicts the ruin for West Kelowna if the community continues to be included in the new provincial speculation tax.

“I believe it’s going to damage our local economy, damage our local housing market,” Findlater said. “We are concerned this is in fact going to work opposite to the way the government wanted. It’s going to slow down construction and create unemployment.”

Findlater said his council has invited a representative from the provincial Ministry of Finance to appear at next week’s council meeting, although nothing has been confirmed.

“We feel there is an obligation for that ministry to get out and explain what they’re hoping to accomplish,” Findlater added.

While they sit in opposition, Findlater has also invited the three area MLAs Norm Letnick, Steve Thomson and newly-reelected Ben Stewart, as well as federal MP Dan Albas.

Findlater says West Kelowna chief administrative officer Jim Zaffino and staff have been pressing the ministry of finance for details to aid in analyzing the impact of the speculation tax.

Zaffino is to report back to council March 13, at which time Findlater said they would have a clearer idea of how to proceed.

The speculation tax was introduced in February’s provincial budget. It's also drawn the ire of Kelowna mayor Colin Basran.

The government has said it will be applied to empty homes in a bid to increase rental stock by taxing people who leave houses empty for all or part of the year.

It will be appled in 2018 at a rate of 0.5 per cent of assessed value, rising to two per cent next year. The tax covers residential properties in the Lower Mainland, Victoria and Nanaimo as well as Kelowna and West Kelowna.

Findlater says council has been hearing from people with vacation homes in West Kelowna that rent them out in the off season, who feel unfairly branded as real estate speculators.

“People who own homes in West Kelowna which are seasonally occupied are not speculators,” Findlater said. “Someone who lives four or five months of the year here, they’re saying I’ve gotta get out of B.C.”

Rather than help the rental market, Findlater says the tax will hurt it by pushing out those who rent their homes out for seven or eight months a year to students.

Findlater said he feels evidence of the potentiial harm of the tax will be presented at next week’s council meeting.

“It’s simply logical. If you have less construction, you’re going to have less buyers. You’re going to have unemployment and less economic activity generated,” he said.

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