When it comes to fending off real estate speculation, the Gulf Islands can consider themselves left to the wolves.
In announcing an expansion of the government’s Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT), B.C. Finance Minister Selena Robinson described the new communities subject to the tax as being “protected.”
As of next year, owners of vacant homes in North Cowichan, Duncan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, Lions Bay and Squamish will have to pay .5 per cent of the home’s assessed value (or two per cent if they are foreign owners or satellite families) per year to the government, with funds used to build affordable housing.
But what Robinson said about those areas could just as easily apply to our islands.
“People in these communities have been vocal about the intense housing pressures they have been facing, including speculation and near-zero rental vacancy rate.”
It makes us wonder what people in those communities did to make the government aware of their plight, or how their situations could be any worse than ours when it comes to real estate speculation.
The Capital Regional District may be a bit late to the SVT request party, but it seems unbelievable that the government would not be aware of the desperate housing situation on Salt Spring, at least.
Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen said he has been advocating for inclusion and was “deeply disappointed” the islands in his constituency were not included (despite not being a tax supporter for the islands when it was first announced in 2018). He added that he will be reaching out to Robinson to get the decision rationale.
While applying the tax to the Gulf Islands may seem punitive to people who have had summer homes on the islands for many years, perhaps those owners could be grandfathered somehow and the SVT only applied to purchasers after a certain date.
Dwellings should first and foremost be used to provide shelter and security for people, not as investments for those who are already housed and have other options for growing wealth.
If islanders have not been “vocal” enough about the impacts of a lack of housing and how help is needed to sustain our communities, it’s time some noise was made.