Government must take bolder action on speculation tax - BCGEU

February 21, 2018

BURNABY – The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is pleased to see the B.C. NDP government's newly released 30-point housing plan which proposes significant steps towards addressing the province's housing affordability crisis. This plan includes measures, many of which the BCGEU has been calling for, like introducing a progressive property transfer tax surcharge, closing loopholes that promote tax evasion and building affordable rental, non-profit, co-op and owner-purchase housing units. However, the "speculation tax" as proposed in this plan, while reflective of BCGEU recommendations, will not go far enough to curb the full extent of speculation in the market. It also misses a major revenue opportunity by narrowly applying the tax to landowners not paying income taxes in B.C. – leaving out developers and land speculators.

Last November the BCGEU released its report Building an Affordable B.C., co-authored by CUPE 1767 President Jared Melvin and Vice President Harpinder Sandhu, which recommends implementing a Land Value Capture (LVC) tax as the centrepiece of a recalibrated tax system. This tax would apply to developers and those who actively speculate on land values, who for years have been making runaway profits in an environment that is largely untaxed and unregulated. Land Value Capture is a moderate intervention that reduces the incentive for speculation, while generating revenue for government investment in transit and infrastructure in the area being developed.

"The value of B.C.'s real estate market has risen to $1.8 trillion – one of our largest sectors. Yet without proper taxation on the value of land, government is leaving money on the table that could go towards funding the services and infrastructure British Columbians need," says Paul Finch, BCGEU Treasurer.

The BCGEU continues to build support for the plan put forward in Building an Affordable B.C. and will continue to push government to adopt a widely-applied Land Value Capture tax as the most effective tool to stabilize speculation, enhance revenue and resources for public services, and to make life more affordable for British Columbians.

The provincial government's 30-point plan is a promising first step towards addressing the housing crisis. However, it would be significantly strengthened by the adoption of the LVC tax, a measure the union hopes to see included in next year's budget.

The BCGEU will host a public meeting on the housing affordability crisis on Monday, February 26th at the Vancouver Public Library at 6:30pm (Peter Kaye Room). A five-person panel including Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr, Tesicca Truong from Generation Squeeze, CUPE 1767 member Harpinder Sandhu, BCGEU Treasurer Paul Finch, and BCGEU Executive Vice President Kari Michaels will engage the public on their stories and ideas for solutions. Recommendations from the report Building an Affordable B.C. will also be presented.

For more information contact: Bronwen Barnett, BCGEU Communications, 604-719-4713