Peachland, Lake Country mayors not surprised by expansion of speculation tax

Tax expansion no surprise

Expansion of the province's Speculation and Vacancy Tax to include all communities in the Central Okanagan came as no surprise to mayors of Peachland and Lake Country.

The province announced Wednesday the tax would be expanding to 13 new communities including eight in the Southern Interior and five on Vancouver Island.

Peachland Mayor Patrick Van Minsel tells Castanet News he received a call from Finance Minister Katrine Conroy Tuesday informing him Peachland would be included.

"As a district we were anticipating this...particularly since Peachland is facing the same housing pressures as all Okanagan communities are facing," said Van Minsel.

"They are putting all the Central Okanagan communities on the same level in that regard."

When the province initially introduced the tax aimed at owners of "empty" vacation and investment homes in 2018, Kelowna and West Kelowna were the only Okanagan communities included.

Mayors of those cities cried foul, suggesting the tax would stall development while driving investment to other neighbouring communities.

Van Minsel says developers and homeowners looking to avoid the tax came to other Okanagan communities, putting the burden on them.

"At the end of the day I think the decision was anticipated."

As far as what affect it will have on a community like Peachland with vacation property owners, Van Minsel says they will have to wait and see.

"As a council we support all initiatives that will see additional, attainable housing in our community because that is something that is lacking in every community.

"How it will affect Peachland, I will have to talk to my council and my staff."

In Lake Country, Mayor Blair Ireland also says the additional of his community was anticipated and welcomed, saying Peachland and Lake Country should have been included at the very beginning.

"It came to a situation where we have the most empty houses of anybody...that's what the problem is saying," said Ireland.

"And, that is problematic in how we create communities. I feel bad for those people that are going to be hurt by this, but at the same time we need to build a whole community and we need development focused on affordable and attainable housing.

"For us, we have seen so much growth and development in single family homes and we certainly know a there is a large percentage that are out of town or out of province owners."

He says this is just another tool being put forward by the province to help communities to build the types of housing needed moving forward.

Expansion of the spec tax will take effect Jan. 1, 2025.

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