West Kelowna  

Angry letter to premier

The City of West Kelowna continues to fight the affects of the province's proposed speculation tax in the court of public opinion.

The latest effort to have the city exempt from the tax, expected to be imposed in the fall, is through an open letter to Premier John Horgan, which has also been released to the media.

The letter doesn't contain anything new, but reiterates the four key points the city continues to hammer home as reasons it should be exempt from the tax.

Vacancy Rate: The city continues to state the 0.2 per cent vacancy rate the province trumpets is not accurate for West Kelowna. The city says the rate is for the Central Okanagan, not the City of West Kelowna, and includes only purpose-built rentals.

West Kelowna says it has been encouraging single-family house rentals and secondary suites, which are not included in the vacancy rate, over the past few years. It further states 75 of the 240 rental units coming on stream this year have not been rented.

Average Property Cost: While the city says it is unaware of the extent to which housing costs were used to include West Kelowna in the tax, it says average house prices are inflated by beachfront properties. The city says those properties inflate the average cost to over $600,000.

It states nearly 2,000 homes are valued at under $400,000, representing 16.03 per cent of the market.

Uneven Playing Field: West Kelowna believes it and Kelowna will be put at an economic disadvantage when compared with other communities in the Okanagan because of the tax. The city believes developers will avoid areas where the tax is imposed, resulting in a decrease in growth and a loss of jobs.

West Kelowna also believes it is impacted because the tax does not impact Westbank First Nation land.

Municipal Revenue: West Kelowna says the spectre of the tax has already cost it a 1,000 home development which would have included a new school site, road upgrades and a large parkland donation.

It adds as a 10-year-old municipality, loss of development cost charges from these developments will jeopardize its infrastructure upgrade program.

Findlater concludes, asking the province conduct an economic impact study before going ahead with the tax.

"The province has announced that this tax will affect only 1 per cent of British Columbians," said Findlater.

"An economic impact report will be able to determine the percentage of British Columbians affected, and to what degree each area is impacted."

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