Three Years of Speculation and Vacancy Tax Data

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

TL;DR

We now have three years of Speculation and Vacancy Tax data for BC, demonstrating generally less than one percent of properties pay the tax in most municipalities. We play around with the data we scraped from files released by the BC government to show

  • how the federal CHSP program systematically overstates “foreign ownership”
  • how source of revenue estimates shift depending upon definitions and tax rates
  • how properties are moving into rentals and
  • what else we can glean from exemptions and revenue data.

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Acting Locally on Housing

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

It may be a measure of the issue’s importance that in the midst of a major climate disaster (not to mention COVID, breakdowns in reconciliation, and other ongoing crises), the leader of the BC Green Party, Sonia Furstenau, dropped a new op-ed on housing. Timing aside, we see this as promising. As we’ve noted in comparing platforms going into the last election, the BC Greens could use some better planning on housing policy.

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Lots of Opportunity: Estimating the Zoning Tax in Vancouver

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

TLDR

We estimate the land value lost by lot subdivision restrictions in the RS (single-family) zoned lands of Vancouver. These restrictions, also known as the zoning tax, subsidize hoarding of land for the wealthy at the cost of those who wouldn’t mind sharing. We conservatively estimate the overall cost of preventing splitting of lots at $43 billion, or an average of 37% of existing lot land value. Alternative formulations enabling deeper subdivisions raise our zoning tax estimates to $146 billion. We provide examples of what subdivision could look like, tally up non-conforming lots by zone, and discuss some of the implications.

The zoning tax is real, and it is enormous. The exact amount of the zoning tax is hard to pin down because we are so far away from the equilibrium of where people would stop subdividing land or air parcels if they were allowed to do so.

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Basement Confidential: Vancouver’s Informal Housing Stock

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at Mountainmath)

Informal housing

While housing is highly regulated via zoning bylaws, building code, and fire code, in situations of housing scarcity we often get informal housing that exists outside of – or only partially covered by – the existing regulatory framework. We often associate slums or shantytowns with the term informal housing, but it also applies to more organized settlements like Kowloon Walled City, or, in the context of subterranean Vancouver, a good portion of our secondary suite stock.

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Manufactured Insecurity: author meets (friendly) critic

So back in the before time, by which I mean somewhere toward the end of 2019, I happily agreed to join an “author meets critics” panel at the Pacific Sociological Association meetings to discuss Esther Sullivan‘s book Manufactured Insecurity: Mobile Home Parks and Americans’ Tenuous Right to Place. The meeting would’ve been in Eugene, Oregon at the end of March in 2020. By February I was already reading the tea leaves and doubting it was going to happen.

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Forced Out in Canada: New Data from CHS

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

TL;DR

The new data release from CHS 2018 enables us to return to looking at mobility, with a special focus on forced moves. We estimate and compare the risk of forced moves for renters across Canada. We also provide some evidence for its sharp decline in BC in 2018, following protections put in place by the NDP. Finally, we compare risk of “forced move” to risk of “choice move” for renters. In BC, “choice moves” are low relative to the rest of Canada, illustrating how the high percent of moves that are forced across BC is in part a product of lack of rental options (given our low vacancy rates) and high rent penalties for moving.

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