As Vancouver grapples with housing crisis, how Europe has tackled vacant homes (News 1130, 13-Dec-2015)

Single family house in Vancouver(An interesting article by Laura Kane @ellekane of the Canadian Press, posted online by News 1130. The City of Vancouver is apparently now starting to investigate “dark houses.” Great. But why did it take policy makers until now in 2015 to start? This has been a problem for years. This article looks at three examples from Europe but gives the impression that none of these will work in Vancouver.)

As Vancouver grapples with housing crisis, how Europe has tackled vacant homes

Excerpts (bold for emphasis):
Imagine living in a former church, school building or fire station for $50 a week. Consider a 25 per cent tax on people who leave their homes vacant. Or the city taking over the hard work of finding a tenant for owners wary of renting.

These are just a few of the inventive solutions that Europe has tried to fill empty dwellings. And while there is disagreement in Vancouver about the extent of the problem, “dark houses” continue to be a hot topic in a city with one of the least affordable housing markets on Earth.

An oft-cited study by adjunct University of British Columbia planning professor Andrew Yan found up to one in four units vacant — for at least part of the year — in some Vancouver neighbourhoods. But think tank Urban Futures found just 5.4 per cent of units unoccupied overall, in line with other big cities.

The City of Vancouver has hired a consultant to analyze census and electricity consumption data. Here’s a look at how Europe has tackled vacant homes.

France’s Taxe sur les logements vacants

France introduced its vacancy tax in 1998 in cities with over 200,000 residents. The tax applied to units that haven’t been inhabited for more than 30 consecutive days over the past two years — as long as they’re not too run down to be lived in or already on the market.

The tax was 10 per cent of the property’s rental value for the first year of vacancy, rising to 12.5 per cent the next year and 15 per cent the following year.


... Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said he would consider a vacancy tax, but pointed out that typically such measures are implemented on a wider basis — not just in one city….


Paris’s Louez solidaire

Directly translated to “rent solidarity,” this initiative enables the city to assume the risks of renting on behalf of private owners.

The owner entrusts an empty unit to a partner agency contracted by the Paris government for three to six years. The partner selects a tenant, and guarantees the owner that the rent will be paid and any damage will be covered….


The Netherlands’ property guardianship

This model dates back to 1980, when Amsterdam was besieged by squatters and vandalism. A real estate agent needed to protect a vacant building, so he drew up a legal squatting contract, enabling his nephew — a student — to live in the city centre at a fraction of the market rent.

Property guardianship was born, and has since exploded across Europe and become enshrined in the tenancy laws of several countries….


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