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Opinion: Mayor and council should donate Empty Homes Tax revenues to Vancouver realtors

Another gift from Mayor McCheese?
Vancouver's City Council kicked off 2022 with a huge gift to businesses who now sell paper bags and cups for a profit

It was refreshing to see Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the rest of Vancouver's City Council kick off the new year by giving a gift of upwards of $20 million to local fast food franchise owners, and if you ask some people it's time they started thinking more of the little guys like this.

Restaurants and cafes such as McDonald's and Starbucks are now charging 25 cents for every paper cup that goes out the door, and 15 cents for every paper bag, as part of a brilliant plan to reduce single-use items.

While tens of millions of dollars could have been collected every year by the City and gone into a fund to help make us greener, Vancouver has instead decided to allow the businesses charging it to keep 100% of the proceeds from their plan.

They see a good policy in introducing a new profit stream for businesses, who can now sell items they previously gave away for free. In fact not only can they sell them, but they are being forced to sell them for a profit, as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make money off of the single-use items.

That policy is supposed to somehow make these businesses want to encourage their customers to stop using single-use items, which makes perfect sense to people who have absolutely no idea how business works.

Anyway! I consider myself a bit of a wonk, and I have an idea that City Hall might want to consider next, in order to help make Vancouver more affordable for people to live in.

Vancouver's Empty Homes Tax brings in around $35 million per year, and it's meant to be used to "support affordable housing initiatives in Vancouver."

I say balls to that. Our council should use the business sense they've shown in the single-use items plan and simply hand that $35 mil back to realtors who operate within the city limits.

If they really hope to achieve housing affordability, the best place to start would be with the people who sell primarily to offshore investors. Give those realtors the majority of the cash, and offer realtors who focus on locals who aim to move their families into their properties a smaller portion. Maybe even none.

The only way we're ever going to solve the affordability crisis in this city is by making sure realtors are able to increase their profits when selling to offshore speculators who are looking to park their money here.

Using council's logic, this calculated move makes perfect sense.

We can't lose.