Government, Green caucus work together on housing affordability

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    Carole James with Andrew Weaver

    Victoria: The Government of British Columbia and the B.C. Green Party caucus have come to an agreement to ensure support of the Speculation and Vacancy Tax Act, a key piece in the government’s plan for housing affordability in B.C.

    “We are in the midst of a housing crisis and we need to act. Once the legislation is amended, the Green caucus has committed its support in passing the bill so that we can tackle out-of-province speculation in B.C.’s housing market and help turn empty properties into homes for people,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “When we formed government, we made a commitment to put people above politics and work collaboratively with the Green caucus. Both sides are showing compromise in order to put housing solutions for British Columbians first.”

    “While this is still not the approach I would have taken, these amendments will improve the bill and will mitigate many of the key issues I have identified,” said Andrew Weaver, Leader of the Green caucus. “The housing crisis is British Columbians’ number one concern and our caucus is committed to working with government to address the role that speculation has played. One of my key issues with this tax is that it was a blunt instrument applied to communities with unique circumstances. My amendments to include local governments in an annual meeting to review the tax and to dedicate any funds raised from this tax to affordable housing in their communities, strike a far better balance.”

    The decision on how to collectively move forward on this legislation was reached by following processes laid out in the Confidence and Supply Agreement. It will result in the Green caucus introducing a series of three amendments to the bill, which government will support in the legislature.

    The first amendment will create an annual meeting between the Minister of Finance and mayors in the affected areas to review the tax and relevant performance measures. This is an important way of ensuring the tax remains focused on the communities facing the greatest affordability challenges.

    The second amendment will further target revenues raised by the tax, with all funds being directed to affordable housing projects in the impacted regions: Nanaimo-Lantzville, the Capital Regional District, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Kelowna-West Kelowna. This will ensure residents of those areas will be able to see the benefits of the tax in their own communities.

    The third amendment will permanently set the tax rate for Canadian citizens and permanent residents who reside outside of British Columbia, and who are not satellite families, at 0.5%.

    “While we strongly support the intent of the first two amendments, we are of the view that the third amendment lessens protections against out-of-province speculative investment,” said James. “We believe it is fair to ask those who do not pay income tax in B.C. to pay their fair share, but in the spirit of compromise we will support this amendment.”

    “Another key concern of mine was that Canadians should be treated equally. We are one country and even if they don’t pay income tax in B.C., Canadians pay federal taxes that benefit our communities,” said Weaver. “The third amendment was an area of compromise and I am pleased that it will lessen the impact for Canadian homeowners, while keeping other critical provisions of the bill intact.”