The Village of Cumberland is considering a tax on speculative properties.
Council has been working on various initiatives to increase the affordable housing supply in the fast-growing community.
In July, the village was contacted by a community member through email about the issue and whether the village would consider putting such a tax on homes bought primarily for profit. The person sent a link to a newspaper article about how some local governments on southern Vancouver Island are looking toward a speculation tax to help reduce the pressure of increasing house prices.
“I heard that the rest of the municipalities in the Comox Valley were interested in doing this also,” Mayor Leslie Baird said at the Aug. 8 council meeting.
More communities in B.C. have been looking to such measures since the provincial government empowered them to do so about four years ago.
Baird referred to the problem of foreign and domestic property speculation on B.C. that are adding to rising home costs and not helping to provide affordable housing.
A speculative tax, council hopes, could be established as an incentive to rent out properties. Typically, homeowners are exempt under certain conditions, most notably if a property is their principal residence or they rent it to tenants for at least six months in the year.
Baird noted there are regions using the tax and that typically this happens across the whole regional district in order to provide consistency, so the hope is that the same will happen in the Comox Valley.
“The three municipalities and the regional district would have to take this on,” she said.
Members of council supported the plan and the need to address the issue of speculation.
“We are also experiencing vacant homes in this community, so I think it’s worth looking into,” Coun. Vickey Brown said.
Coun. Jesse Ketler, who also chairs the regional district board, said the issue started in Victoria and spread to communities such as the Cowichan area that had to respond to buying pressures as speculators started looking for other communities in which to invest. Her hope was for something consistent across B.C.
“Really, it should be province-wide but it’s not, so you have to ask for it,” she said. “It moves us away from the commodification of housing.”
Ketler added that she had spoken to Mayor Bob Wells of Courtenay about the issue. For now, council is only exploring the idea, as they passed a motion to direct staff to bring back a report on the speculation tax.