The Real Deal National

She chose to redevelop rather than rent her Vancouver mansion. Now she owes the city $249K

The city’s “empty homes tax,” part of a response to the high cost of housing in Vancouver, applies to homes vacant more than 6 months
July 21, 2019 05:00PM

An aerial view of the property in the Billionaires Row area (Credit: Google Maps, iStock)

An aerial view of the property in the Billionaires Row area (Credit: Google Maps, iStock)

A wealthy Chinese woman sued the local government in Vancouver after the city charged her an “empty homes tax” of $249,000 for vacating her mansion in its “Billionaires Row” area.

The vacancy tax is part of a larger effort to address the lofty cost of housing in Vancouver. But He Yiju claimed exemption from the tax in her lawsuit because she applied for permits to redevelop her Vancouver mansion, which she bought in 2015.

Yiju’s husband is multimillionaire and Chinese parliament member Zheng Jianjiang and her estate sits in Point Grey, an exclusive neighborhood known for waterfront estates that rank among the city’s most expensive homes.

The mansion’s taxable value is $24.9 million, which served as the basis for calculating the $249,000 vacancy tax, the Vancouver Sun reported. The British Columbia Assessment Authority says the property is worth $26.7 million.

Vancouver’s vacancy tax applies to homes vacated for more than six months. The city charges the tax to encourage the rental of homes not occupied by owners.

Enactment of the vacancy tax prompted some mansion owners to rapidly rent their empty properties to avoid paying the tax. As a result, some college students rented rooms in luxurious Vancouver residences for as little as $825 USD in monthly rent.

Implemented in 2017, the “empty homes tax” is part of Vancouver’s response to high housing costs amid an influx of foreign investment in recent years and rapid gentrification of neighborhoods.

“The city is in the midst of a severe housing crisis, with one of the lowest rental vacancy rates and highest rental costs in Canada,” according to a statement by the city of Vancouver on its website. [Insider] – Mike Seemuth