Ian Morrison, CVRD director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls. (Citizen file photo)

Ian Morrison, CVRD director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls. (Citizen file photo)

Rural Cowichan communities need to be included in speculation tax: Morrison

CVRD director for Lake Cowichan South/Skutz Falls said areas face challenges without it

Ian Morrison said when the province flexes its muscles, there’s almost always unintended consequences as a result, and he’s worried his area will face the fallout.

Morrison, the Cowichan Valley Regional District director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, is referring to the government’s decision in July to expand its speculation and vacancy tax to the CVRD’s municipalities of North Cowichan, Duncan, Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan, as well as Lions Bay and Squamish, beginning in January, 2023.

Begun by the province in 2018, the tax aims to help eliminate speculative real-estate practices and turn empty units into homes for those struggling with housing affordability.

RELATED STORY: B.C.’S SPECULATION AND VACANCY TAX SET TO EXPAND TO COWICHAN VALLEY, LADYSMITH BY 2023

The tax had only applied to major urban areas, like the City of Nanaimo and the Capital Regional District, but the government decided to expand it to some smaller areas following a recent independent review which found the tax is helping keep housing prices and rents lower.

But it is still not being applied to the CVRD’s electoral areas, including Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, where housing prices have been going through the roof in recent years and accommodations have become increasingly scarce.

Morrison said that when it was announced the speculation tax would be applied to the CVRD’s four municipalities, it became clear that investment capital would be looking at areas, like his, that don’t have the tax.

“The CVRD did ask for consideration for the tax in the entire regional district to make sure there was a level playing field for all jurisdictions,” he said.

“The provincial move to implement the tax only inside municipal boundaries was somewhat surprising because of the expected impact it will have on electoral area communities. Skyrocketing housing prices and assessments, near zero rental stock, and increasing proliferation of short-term rentals will make recruiting volunteers for rural fire departments and first responder services even more difficult than it is today.”

RELATED STORY: CVRD LOOKS AT SPECULATION TAX

Morrison said the province never explained why the electoral areas were left out of the tax’s jurisdiction.

He said nobody wants to see multi-generational family cottages subject to the tax, but community members feel insecure seeing new people moving in next door every few days in properties that have short-term rentals.

“What electoral area communities are facing today is a hollowing out of small communities in recreation areas because investors are taking the risk of non-permitted short-term rentals instead of the lower returns of renting long term to a family, which is a permitted use in most zoning bylaws,” Morrison said.

“These will be some of the issues facing local governments after the municipal election on Oct. 15. The question of the speculation tax in electoral areas has already been answered: it’s not going to happen. Affordable housing, increasing assessments, short-term rentals, and uncertainty in rural communities will be with us for years to come. These are good questions for all-candidate meetings in the coming weeks [before the municipal elections].”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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