Ding, dong, the tax is dead

The provincial government’s proposal to add a speculation tax on B.C. properties owned by non-residents went over like the proverbial lead balloon in Parksville Qualicum Beach region when it was announced Feb. 20.

This week, after a month of pushback by local and regional politicians, businesses and residents, that balloon was torched like the doomed Hindenburg zeppelin.

The speculation tax itself is not dead. In details released Monday by NDP Finance Minister Carole James, metropolitan Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, greater Victoria, Kelowna and West Kelowna and Nanaimo-Lantzville remain within its clutches.

But Parksville Qualicum Beach has been exempted from the tax, which in theory is intended to rein in runaway home prices and free up inventory that has been squeezed by foreign investment in high-density, urban areas.

That is hardly a description of a region known primarily for its tourism and its draw as a mecca for retirees and summer vacationers from across Canada.

Yes, we have a current housing inventory as slim as those of many of our big-city brethren. When it comes to affordable housing for workers or young families just starting out, that inventory borders on non-existent.

But the speculation tax wasn’t going to solve that issue. What it was going to do was punish Canadians from other provinces who have invested locally by purchasing a second home in preparation to retire here in the coming years, or who have secured shares in vacation rentals or similar properties which would not be available to sell as primary family homes anyway.

According to Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre, a speculation tax in our region would also have harmed the development, real estate and even tourism industries.

Indeed, a planned $30-million expansion of the Sunrise Ridge Resort in Parksville was put on hold when pre-order buyers fled upon receiving notice of the speculation tax.The developer is optimistic they will return in the wake of this week’s development.

Admittedly, that project will not add to Parksville’s affordable housing inventory. But the city is working on it. On April 4, a public hearing is scheduled before council’s regular meeting to address rezoning of property along Dogwood Street in order to facilitate a rental apartment project.

That’s the kind of thing that will crack the door open for workers and couples seeking housing in the community. Rather than chase away those who already pay taxes and contribute to the local economy.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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