UBC and SFU profs propose surcharge on vacant residential properties

Flickr user Duane Storey

Plus, Christy Clark announces tech program for school kids and NewLeaf budget airline is grounded

A modest proposal
A group of eight economists at UBC’s Sauder School of Business and Vancouver School of Economics plus two SFU professors have come up with a proposal to tax property owners who have limited residential or economic ties to B.C. and redistribute the revenue to local residents. The B.C. Housing Affordability Fund would involve a 1.5 per cent property surcharge on residential real estate targeting owners of vacant properties or those with limited participation in the Canadian economy—the owner of a vacant $10-million home would face a $150,000 BCHAF contribution each year, for example.

Most homeowners and landlords would be exempt from the surcharge. As an incentive to move unoccupied suites into the rental market, owners would receive exemptions for rental income they receive from non-family members reported to the Canada Revenue Agency.

The revenue, which could be $90 million in Vancouver alone, would be distributed as lump-sum payments to all Canadian tax filers in any area included or could be used to lower income taxes.

Kindergarten coders
Coding will be be part of the school curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 12, Premier Christy Clark announced Monday. Clark was the opening keynote speaker at the BC Tech Summit being held in Vancouver January 18 and 19.

Another pillar in the B.C. government’s BC Tech Strategy—first announced in December with a new $100-million venture capital fund to help promising B.C. tech companies—the new curriculum will give more than 600,000 B.C. students the opportunity to gain basic skills needed for careers in technology including greater access to work experience electives for high school students and dual credit partnerships between secondary and post-secondary institutions.

The BC Tech Strategy also includes activities aimed at streamlining, simplifying and automating government procurement processes, facilitating exports, investing in connectivity infrastructure and improving collaboration and commercialization.

Failure to launch
NewLeaf Travel Company, a budget airline that announced January 7 that it would launch flights from Abbotsford and Kelowna starting February 12, is temporarily grounded. A notice on the airline’s website says, “recent questions about licensing and regulation for Indirect Air Service Providers, like NewLeaf, have caused confusion and ambiguity in the market, which amplifies the need for a clear articulation of the regulations from the Canadian government.” While the Canadian Transportation Agency conducts a review, NewLeaf has postponed sales of airline tickets and will fully refund all credit card transactions made to date within 72 hours. The airline plans to start taking reservations again in the spring.