Vancouver homeowner with $27M property wins court battle over empty home tax

The owner of one of the most valuable properties in all of B.C. won't have to pay an empty home tax of $249,314 — at least not yet.

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has ruled the City of Vancouver erred when it issued the tax on a home at 4749 Belmont Avenue, and ordered the city undertake a new review.

The property was purchased by Yi Ju He in 2015 and was assessed last year at $26,789,000, with the building itself valued at just $10,000.

According to the court ruling, He had been taking steps to redevelop the property when she submitted her empty home tax form in 2018 — including removing asbestos materials from the site — and in 2017 had submitted applications to the city for various permits.

But the city rejected He's request for an exemption. A vacancy tax review officer ruled it hadn't been proved the home had been empty for construction or renovations with permits issued by the city.

He then submitted a request for a review panel to reassess the case. In her ruling, Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick said that while the panel received advice from the city about permits she had applied for, they didn't tell He about it, and rejected her request without an oral hearing.

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Fitzpatrick also wrote the city acknowledged the review panel's decision "did not meet the requirements of procedural fairness" and ordered a new hearing by the panel. 

Vancouver's empty homes tax has put an extra $38.7 million into the city's coffers since it was launched in 2016, according to a new report. The tax — which is separate from the provincial government's speculation and vacancy tax — will rise from one per cent to 1.25 per cent for next year.

The empty homes tax is the first of its kind in North America, with the funds targeted for affordable housing initiatives for tenants.