The B.C. NDP presented their first budget on Feb. 20, with some inclusions that will affect Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, particularly when it comes to housing.
Housing was a big part of the budget, with many announcements made that will benefit affordable housing projects and make housing more accessible for people across the province. One of the hoped-for housing crisis remedies is a new speculation tax that will take effect in April 2019 and affecting properties owned by people who live outside of B.C. According to a study published by Islands Trust in 2009, the amount of non-residential ownership on Salt Spring Island was 22 per cent. An additional tax on non-residential ownership, which is now estimated to be between 20 and 30 per cent, could make it difficult for the non-residents to maintain their properties.
“I already have some new listings coming on as a result of it,” said realtor Jan MacPherson. “I think people in Alberta who have cottages and recreational property in B.C. will be badly affected and will feel that they are being discriminated against as non-residents of B.C. being that they are Canadians. I don’t think it’s going to make housing per se more affordable. I don’t think it’s going to meet the goal.”
Other taxes will include the expansion of the Foreign Buyers tax — which is now set at 20 per cent — to the CRD, and allowing online platforms to take part in the hotel tax. This will allow platforms like Airbnb to charge eight per cent PST and up to three per cent Municipal and Regional District Tax on short-term rentals. Revenue will go to both federal and regional governments and be used for other services.
The government also promised new funding to tackle the issue of affordable housing. They will be investing $6.6 billion into affordable housing, which translates to 114,000 new homes across the province. Since it is early into the process, the way this will apply to Salt Spring is still unknown, but Fernando and Tami dos Santos, developers for the Dragonfly Commons and Coastal House projects, are optimistic about the changes.
“The biggest problem remains the regulatory hurdles, locally and provincially, that make it incredibly difficult, expensive and time consuming to rezone/subdivide a property for affordable housing,” they said in an email. “We remain optimistic that this will help but we will have to see, particularly for work force housing which we believe is one of the biggest areas of need and does not appear to be getting much love or money from the government.”
For more on this story, see the Feb. 28, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.