Community ‘collapsing’, say some Salt Spring Island residents, citing vacancy tax

It’s not every day that a community begs for taxation, but this is the situation many residents of BC’s most populous Gulf Island have found themselves in.

A group of Salt Spring Island residents say they’re upset that the province hasn’t included the community in recent expansions of speculation and vacancy taxes, which they say could help address an increasingly dire housing shortage.

“Salt Spring is in a real estate crisis, and frankly, the crisis is not overdone. Ferries are cancelled, companies just can’t hire anyone,” Daniel Wood, general manager of the Salt Spring Cheese Company, told Global News.

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BC government extends real estate speculation tax to Squamish and Duncan

“Essentially, we are being left out (of tax) so that the privileged elite can save a little on taxes while the ordinary community and island workers are forced to commute and live in substandard housing.”

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Wood said the island’s housing problem is so bad that despite the labor shortage, companies don’t even consider applications from outside the island because they know there will be no place for them to live.

Wood is among nearly two dozen Salt Spring business owners and community groups calling on BC Treasury Secretary Selina Robinson to include the island in the tax.

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Province extends speculation and vacancy tax to more BC communities

Province extends speculation and vacancy tax to more BC communities – July 20, 2022

BC introduced the tax in 2018 to encourage owners of vacant properties to either sell or rent them to increase housing stock, and claims it freed up about 20,000 units.

Last week the province moved to extend the tax to Squamish and Duncan, North Cowichan and Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. Several BC hotspots, including Whistler and the Gulf Islands, were not included.

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Rhonan Heitzmann, Salt Spring’s business owner and housing advocate, said the lack of available housing has left the community with a critical labor shortage, to the point where the community is “cracking down”.

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British Columbians now form the largest bloc of speculative taxpayers

“It’s not too late to include Salt Spring Island in this tax. We are different from the other Southern Gulf Islands. We have a large community with many services, hospitals and schools,” he said.

“We’ve made it clear that we want to be there – and so it feels like a slap in the face to have other communities right next to us included in the tax – it’s more of a target on our backs for people who come and.” get tax-free vacation homes in Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.

According to the group, up to one in five homes on the island sits vacant for more than half the year, affecting every part of the local economy.

Nowhere on the island is the housing shortage as evident as in healthcare.

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BC government expands speculation and vacancy tax program

BC Government Expands Speculation and Vacancy Control Program – July 20, 2022

Salt Spring is home to the small Lady Minto Hospital, which serves the island’s 12,000 residents, the people of the surrounding islands, and busy tourism.

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According to Roberta Martell, executive director of the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, the facility is set to operate with a staff of 130 but is currently short of about 40.

“It’s very damaging, we need to get people back into those positions — and it’s quite a downward spiral,” she said.

“People leave their jobs at the end of the night, so they work overtime. And they come back in the morning to the same job they left because nobody was there in the meantime.”

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Poll finds strong support for BC Speculation Tax but little confidence it will help affordability

The foundation has taken extreme measures to fill the gaps, renting a home as a “landing pad” for new hires and even buying an old motel and converting it into housing for medical staff.

In a statement, the finance minister said the province is already taking steps to expand the tax, which was initially intended for urban areas.

Further expansion to places like the Southern Gulf Islands would represent a “major step,” Robinson wrote.

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The NDP government’s real estate speculation tax is now hitting BC residents more than any other group

NDP government’s real estate speculation tax now hits BC residents more than any other group – January 14, 2021

“These are the communities we’re adding right now, and the work doesn’t end there. The province will continue to study the effectiveness of the Speculation Tax, speak with community partners, and make further adjustments to tax needs, including expanding to other areas, to ensure it is doing what it was built to do – provide homes to people where they live ,” the statement said.

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“We want to see how this new expansion into smaller communities affects future decisions about potential expansion into other areas.”

Meanwhile, Wood and others on the island have no plans to back down.

“There are so few other proposals making headway to address the problem,” he said.

“It’s not often that small businesses call every official they can find to ask them to tax their communities more, but that’s where we’ve come to this situation.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc. Community ‘collapsing’, say some Salt Spring Island residents, citing vacancy tax


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