Housing

Rent freeze

From July 2016 to July 2017, the median rent for a one-bedroom unit increased 20% from $1,740 to $2,090. This now exceeds the entire income of someone working full-time at the minimum wage -- about $1,839 a month ($11.35/hour on Sept 15).

If rents continue to increase 20% annually for four years, the average one-bedroom will cost $4,350 by the 2021 civic elections. Vancouver needs a Rent Freeze now.

On her first day as a councillor, Jean Swanson will submit a motion asking City Council to:

  • Officially take the position that there should be a 0% rent increase over the next four years
  • Ask the provincial government to set the maximum allowable rent increase at 0% for the next four years within the City of Vancouver and lobby fiercely to get this change

To ensure that landlords do not circumvent the Rent Freeze the City must also:

  • Grant renovation permits only if the landlord demonstrates that any tenants forced to vacate will be allowed to return at previous rents 

 

Tax the Rich, House the Homeless

This year’s homeless count of 2,138 is the highest in Vancouver’s history. The average life expectancy in BC is about 80 years, while people who are forced to be homeless die at almost 40 years on average - many younger than that. Homelessness kills. Over 30% of homeless people are Indigenous. Winter is coming and thousands of people will be freezing on our streets with shelter beds available for only about half of counted homeless people.

We need to Tax the Rich if we want to end homelessness. Seattle City Council recently passed a “tax on the wealthy” that is expected to generate $140 million in revenue. In Vancouver we have to introduce progressive property taxes, or a "Mansion Tax".

Both the provincial and federal government have the power to tax income and the tax rates are often set progressively so that those with higher incomes are taxed at a higher rate. The City has the power to tax property, but it has always been a flat tax rate rather than a progressive property tax.

Swanson is calling for two new tax brackets. There will be an extra 1% tax on the value between $5- and $10-million, and a 2% tax on the value over $10 million. Swanson identified 420 one/two-family homes worth over $10 million, which will bring in $112,000,000 in revenues every year. There are an additional 4,532 one/two/multi-family properties worth $5-$10 million, which will bring in an additional $62,000,000 annually.

Table 1. Mansion Tax revenues:

 

Number of properties

Mansion Tax rate

Extra tax revenues with our plan

One/two-family properties valued over $10 million

420

>5M: 1%, >10M: 2%

$112,000,000

One/two/multi-family properties $5-10 million

4,532

>5M: 1%

$62,000,000

Total

4,952

 

$174,000,000

Those with homes valued under $5 million will not be affected, according to Swanson. The Mansion Tax is progressive and does not affect the first $5 million of any property, and homes valued slightly over $5 million will not see significant increases either.

Table 2. How the Mansion Tax works:

Cost of home

Current paid property tax

Tax paid including Mansion Tax

Increase to help the rest of us

$1 million

$2,555

$2,555

$0

$5 million

$12,774

$12,774

$0

$5 million and 1 dollar

$12,774

$12,774.01

$0.01

$10 million

$25,549

$75,549

$50,000

$75,821,000 - Chip Wilson’s mansion

$194,920

$1,560,134

$1,365,213

Swanson intends to direct the Mansion Tax toward three initiatives:
  1. Immediately work to build 2,138 modular homes, one for each homeless person counted in Vancouver. Each modular home costs only $75,000 so ending homelessness will cost $160 million - less than one year of Mansion Tax revenues. It actually saves $23,000 a year to house a homeless person instead of keeping them on the street, so the units could pay for themselves in less than four years.
  2. Build social and cooperative housing to meet the need of 18,000 Vancouverites currently spending over 50% of their income on rent. This will cost about $360 million per year. The Mansion Tax alone will cover about half this cost. The City reserves another $70 million per year for affordable housing with Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) and Development Cost Levies (DCLs). Swanson will also push higher levels of government to match the City’s efforts.
  3. Put substance into reconciliation. We can use some of the money to put teeth in reconciliation, for housing and land for indigenous people. For example, with this policy the threat of condo desecration at the Musqueam midden could have been stopped right away and the City could buy the land and return it to its rightful owners.