Photo: Colin Knowles/Flickr

Vancouver’s empty-home tax may not have improved affordability for renters in one of the country’s tightest apartment markets, but it did exceed policymakers’ expectations in another way.

In its first year since being approved by Vancouver city council, the tax has raised $38 million in revenue, exceeding the $30-million estimate released in April. That could be good news for renters, because as per the city’s recently published Empty Homes Tax Annual Report, the money “must be used for the purposes of initiatives respecting affordable housing.”

Lauded as the first tax of this kind on the continent, the levy is applied to properties that owners aren’t renting or using as a primary residence for at least half a year. Some other exemptions apply — such as if the land is vacant — and the tax works out to 1 percent of a property’s assessed value.

Of the 186,043 homes that were assessed as of November 1st, a total of 2,538 were deemed vacant, while 5,385 homes that were not occupied were exempt for various reasons.

Some 60 percent of vacant or exempt properties were condos and 34 percent were single-family homes. “Aligning with the high density of condos in the downtown core, the largest number of vacant and exempt properties was recorded in Downtown Vancouver,” reads the report.

In 2017, Shaughnessy had the highest share of vacant or exempt units at 8 percent. At 2 percent, Sunset had the fewest.

“With the first year of Empty Homes Tax declarations complete, staff will continue to monitor the impact of the tax on housing supply and affordability, as part of the City’s broader set of actions in its 10-year Housing Vancouver strategy,” the report concludes.

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