Council approves first wave of Empty Homes Tax funding to support co-ops, renters at risk

Vancouver City Council has voted to approve recommendations from City staff regarding the allocation of revenue collected to date from the first year of the Empty Homes Tax. Council approved staff recommendations that will see $8 million invested in a variety of affordable housing initiatives, with the majority going towards building more co-op and non-profit housing and improvements to living conditions in low-income housing.

Council also approved funding for several innovative ideas generated through the public consultation process, including matching empty homes and rooms with renters and a temporary modular ‘college’ to include peer-based mentorship and skills training.

“I’m very pleased that Council has approved a variety of new affordable housing investments funded by Vancouver’s first Empty Homes Tax,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit, like, and comment on your favourite housing ideas. We will now be moving forward with new initiatives that will boost support for low-income renters, create more co-op and non-profit housing, and look at new opportunities to make the best use of our existing rental housing.”

The following investments will be funded through the Empty Homes Tax revenue collected to date:
- More affordable co-op and non-profit housing ($3,175,000): Provide land and resources for affordable non-profit and co-op housing.
- More affordable co-op and non-profit housing ($1,000,000): More co-op housing grants to update and improve existing co-ops and build new co-ops.
- Improvements to low-income housing ($3,500,000): Contribute to purchase buildings and/or provide assistance toward improved living conditions in private SRO housing.
- Support for vulnerable renters ($100,000): Support for renters facing eviction.
- Support for vulnerable renters ($75,000): Funding for the Vancouver Rent Bank.
- Funding for skills training in peer support, affordable housing management, and asset training for residents of supportive housing ($100,000): ‘Temporary Modular College’ – temporary modular housing with on-site peer-based mentorship programming.
- Matching empty/underutilized homes and rooms with renters looking for housing ($50,000): Shared housing models like senior/student housing arrangements.

Staff’s recommendations were informed by a two-phased public engagement process from April 26 – May 17th that invited Vancouver residents to share their ideas for how to invest the Empty Homes Tax net revenue into affordable housing initiatives. The three-week online campaign brought in more than 130 ideas, 5,160 likes and dislikes and 442 comments, for almost 6,000 interactions. In total, there were 9,189 visitors to the platform. Additionally, the City hosted an “Idea Jam” on May 17th to generate more discussion and ideas about the best ways to invest the Empty Homes Tax revenue.

In April, the Mayor Robertson announced that the Empty Homes Tax— the first of its kind in North America—will generate an estimated $30 million in revenue, with the net revenue after costs to be invested into affordable housing initiatives.

To date, the City has collected $18 million and, after first-year project and operating costs are deducted, there is a current net revenue of $8 million to be invested in affordable housing initiatives.

For more information, read the summary of engagement and staff recommendations in Appendix E of the report to Council: http://council.vancouver.ca/20180619/documents/rr1a.pdf