VANCOUVER, B.C. – On Monday March 29, 2019, Vancouver City Council voted 6-5 to shift two percent of the tax burden from the commercial to the residential sector over the next three years. All three Green Party Councillors voted in favour of the shift as an overdue measure of relief for small businesses.
Local BIAs’ plea for the tax shift arose from the ballooning inequity between the two tax classes — in some cases businesses have seen their property taxes increase between 100 and 200 percent in the last few years. This has resulted in a massive loss of local businesses across the city.
“It’s important to be clear about the facts: 98% of all businesses in Vancouver are small businesses. I’m concerned that the focus on Walmart is misleading to the public,” said Adriane Carr reacting to the latest news story on the decision.
“Over and over I hear from residents how important their local businesses are to our communities. We are losing small businesses at a rapid rate. If we don’t take urgent action on this we will end up with no other options than big box stores.”
Councillor Michael Wiebe, who is a business owner and homeowner, felt the decision was necessary but imperfect. “It’s not as targeted as I would’ve liked, but it’s the best decision we could make with the options we had available,” said Wiebe.
“The loss of small business has a huge impact not only on affordability, but also livability. One of the climate emergency ‘Big Moves’ that Council approved Monday is ensuring 90 percent of our daily needs are walkable or rollable; retaining local business is critical to that. I see small businesses getting priced out of my neighbourhood all the time; one speaker lost their local laundromat, a service that is essential to so many lower income renters.”
“As a city, we’ve struggled with tax fairness for local businesses for some time now,” said Councillor Pete Fry. “The really nuanced tools we need like property classifications and assessments are all within the realm of the Province.
“City staff’s recommendations for split assessments go back several years. Former City Councillor Geoff Meggs was once a champion for this, but even with him now in the Premier’s office we have yet to see any headway on the necessary legislative change, and local small businesses continue to suffer.
"This modest tax shift is a signal that the new council recognizes we need to strengthen our resolve, work with the province and come up with solutions to save local-serving small business in Vancouver.”
Councillor Fry amended Monday’s motion directing the intergovernmental working group to look at more effective tools for small business relief moving forward including, “city-led grants, rebates, and a Provincial amendment of property class 6.” Property class 6 covers all businesses, large or small, and is currently the only property class for businesses; adding extra classes would provide the tools necessary to enable lower rates for local small business.
In Vancouver 7% of all properties are commercial; before the shift they were set to pay 45% of all property taxes. As a result of the vote, the commercial burden will go down to 43%. According to city staff, 2019 taxes on the average single-family home, valued at $2.3million, will go up by $54; the averaged price condo, at $900,000, will incur an additional $22 in taxes.