In UK, Australia, national and state governments — not cities — tackling “empty homes,” foreign ownership

Vancouver is not the only city in the midst of hot debates about the twin pressures of “empty homes” and foreign ownership, but in other jurisdictions it is state and national governments — not local municipalities — where the policy response takes shape.

In Victoria, Australia, a new combination of state and national action against foreign investors has been called a “king hit” to the real estate industry. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is cracking down on illegal foreign purchases of land as the state government throws in a crackdown on absentee ownership and an extra property tax on foreign owners. That’s Victoria, the state government, not Melbourne, the city government.

In the United Kingdom, concern about “empty homes” has produced a national policy response, some of which has given extra powers to local authorities to bring empty homes back into the market place. More could be done, argue experts, but the power lies with the national government.

It’s time for the debate in BC to shift to those who could actually make a difference . . . like Housing Minister Rich Coleman, for instance. While Vancouver is working hard to uncover the facts about empty homes, it’s hard to believe the solutions can be found in the Vancouver Charter.