Properties in Lantzville have been included in a provincial government speculation tax and local politicians want to know why.
During a council meeting on Monday night, Lantzville councillors voted unanimously in favour of scheduling a meeting with Carole James, the province’s minister of finance, after her government recently indicated that a speculation tax will apply to properties located within the District of Lantzville.
The provincial government announced Monday that the District of Lantzville and the City of Nanaimo would continue to subject to the speculation tax, while properties located elsewhere in the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands would no longer be subject to the tax.
Lantzville Mayor Colin Haime, who made the motion, told councillors he only found out about the government’s announcement from another councillor moments before the meeting began, adding that it only applies to Lantzville and Nanaimo but has no idea how it will work.
“How this tax is going to work has not been determined yet, so therefore the impact on individual citizens is tough to determine,” he said.
The provincial government’s decision to remove a number of municipalities and regions from the tax, comes after the Regional District of Nanaimo and municipalities complained about the tax’s impact on development in their regions.
According to a release on the province’s website, the speculation tax will not apply to primary residences in B.C. and is intended to target “foreign and domestic speculators” as well as “satellite” families, high-income households that pay little income tax in B.C.
Foreigners and satellite families who rent out their non-primary residence can avoid the tax, while Canadians who live outside of B.C. can be exempted from the the tax by renting out their property for six months of the year.
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The province has set this year’s tax 0.5 per cent of the property’s assessed value.
Speaking to the News Bulletin, Haime said while he doesn’t believe the tax will achieve what the government thinks it will, he wants to meet with the minister to understand the rationale for including Lantzville in the tax, adding that there seems to be no logic behind it.
“I am certainly willing to listen to the minister and hear their thoughts on why Lantzville was included and why a neighbouring area such as Nanoose was not included?” he said.
He questioned why major vacation destinations such as Tofino and Whistler are excluded from the tax, while Lantzville remains in the tax.
“It’s kind of all over the place. If there was a base philosophy and a base approach that was evenly presented, that would make sense,” he said, adding he doubts the tax will have a significant impact in Lantzville.
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay brought up the speculation tax changes at Monday’s city council meeting and suggested it’s poor governing to make policy changes on the fly.
“This legislation was introduced in the budget with very, very little detail and now here we are as a community trying to struggle with how it may affect our economy, affect homeowners, affect owners of properties in our community,” he said.
The RDN, meanwhile, issued a statement thanking James for taking time to meet recently and listening to the regional district’s concerns.
“We are pleased that further consideration was given to how, who and where the tax will impact, and that the province will continue to study the impacts of the tax,” noted Bill Veenhof, RDN board chairman, in a press release. “The RDN will continue to focus improving housing affordability in our region and working with the province on this important initiative. We will continue to work with and support our partner municipalities the City of Nanaimo and District of Lantzville who remain affected by the speculation tax.”