December 9, 2021

Vancouver City Council Approves Climate Emergency Tax for Property Owners

 

It was in late November that Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced a climate emergency action levy that would be introduced as a motion to Council during the City’s operating budget discussion.

On December 7, Council reviewed the operating budget for the 2022 year, budgeting for how the work of the city would be paid for. This also means figuring out what  property tax increases would be for property owners in Vancouver, and whether they would hold to a five percent increase or go beyond that figure.

After hours of discussion and presentations, an operating budget of 1.747 billion dollars was passed in a six to five vote, with property taxes to increase 6.35 percent in 2022.

On the same day  a report  signed off by Theresa O’Donnell  the director of planning and general manager of Planning, Urban Design, and Sustainability proposed a myriad of nature based carbon sequestration goals and potential projects for Council’s consideration. Many of these initiatives had already been presented and discussed with Council after the Climate Emergency Parking  Plan was voted down.

This proposed work would have previously been covered under Vancouver’s capital plans for each department. But as City spending and projects have increased  in the last ten years (as well as staffing in both the Mayor’s office and in departments) new ways to fund and repackage initiatives was needed.

No one will deny that climate change and its consequences are the dominant theme of this era. The City’s Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) wants to slice carbon pollution by fifty percent of the  year 2007 base by 2030 with carbon neutral status by 2050. The report before Council looks at creating more green spaces with trees, investing in filtrating water, and creating more resilient sustainable spaces.

The difference between the failed Climate Emergency Parking Program and the Climate Emergency Action Levy is that it is now more equitable. People who live in more expensive housing will pay more of the tax. In the previously proposed curbside parking tax, those able to park on private property would escape the charge.  Those private parkers would probably be more likely to be driving the expensive higher carbon emission vehicles that also would escape the proposed 500 to 1,000 dollar annual “dirty vehicle” charge.

For 2021 nine million dollars of the capital plan will go forward for climate emergency measures. In terms of the impact of the levy on property owners, the Mayor has stated the increased tax will be $72 annually for condo owners, $168 for an average house, and  $312 for a “median” business property.

In particular the levy will provide in the first year 2.5 million dollars towards electric vehicle infrastructure, and 2 million dollars for transit infrastructure, slow street maintenance and walking/cycling improvements. Two million dollars will be allocated to “Natural Climate Solutions” and a further two million dollars for City of Vancouver civic building retrofits. Half a million dollars will be left for Council’s discretion to allocate towards work, and this levy will now be part of every future Council’s annual budget process.

One of the challenges of the levy is going to be the cost to businesses that may be in a not so “median” locations and not be able to pay any increased taxes with the pandemic greatly impacting their revenue. Businesses pay property taxes as part of their space rent.

Many previously plum business  locations downtown may not have anticipated foot traffic returning if indeed 30 to 40 percent of workers do not return to a five day downtown office. There are also examples of very successful businesses such as the takeout restaurant locations of  Smak closing because of lack of customers.

You can review the  capital plan as presented this week here.

And a quick reminder: the items paid or under the “climate emergency action levy” used to be covered under different budget items in the city. This is less a climate emergency response tax, but more an increased tax so that the city can get on with proposed projects. Each Council will now able to ascertain what initiatives will be covered under this on-going levy at capital plan budget time. Some items, like completing the separated storm/sanitary sewer system (which prevents sewage overflows from going into watercourses and the ocean) will hopefully be expedited with this levy.

The video of the meeting is also available  and you can see the voting for the Climate Emergency Action Levy at 5:41 here.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Just because one owns in an expensive neighbourhood does not mean automatically that they contribute more to global warming.
    I drive just over 3000km a year for personal use, preferring to walk or cycle; I have always lived close to work ( that meant bigger mortgage ),don’t waste food ( also volunteering for Vancouver Food Runners ) and growing some. My yard is a haven to birds and other wildlife and I will use things as long as possible creating very little garbage ( a small garbage bag every 6 or 8 weeks )

  2. Tying a “climate levy” to property value is rather disconnected from emissions and just illustrates that the revenue sources that the City has access to can be ill-suited to the purpose. We live in a centrally located, new condo building with a very expensive all-electric heat pump HVAC and hot water system that earned the developer generous emissions reduction credits. The utility rates are extreme (triple per kWh what we paid in Olympic Village) as the equipment is on a lease-to-own arrangement. We walk, cycle or use transit for most trips and bought an EV for others as the unit included a charger.

    Not going for sympathy here, just pointing out that if you do all the right things to reduce emissions, you still pay the same climate levy as everyone else.

  3. As someone who bought their 1949 bungalow for $50K in 1978 and who hasn’t seen a penny of the property’s appreciation (’cause where else am I going to live?), I reject the premise that “people who live in more expensive housing will pay more of the tax”. It’s my property that’s expensive, not my housing, and it has little to do with my financial situation. Especially when a larger and larger share of my budget goes to property tax every year.

    I gladly pay my property tax bill because I value where I live and the amenities that the city provides. But let’s not try to pretend it’s equitable in the same way that, say, a carbon tax is.

    1. Sean, you’re not looking at the big picture, and that goes for Pierre, above, too. Those who live in houses in a city of Vancouver’s population force more people to live farther out of the city. This increases energy use and emissions. People who live in houses add to emissions even if they are not their own emissions.
      Where are you going to live? Well… you are forcing others who didn’t have the luxury of being born so long ago to live farther out. You could do that but would recognize that benefits no one. You could downsize to a nice apartment and allow your property to be turned into apartments for the next residents.

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