South Vancouver Residents Hire New Rental Company To Avoid Empty Homes Tax
Reported by Desirée Garcia
To avoid the empty homes tax, some South Vancouver residents are hiring a new type of company to fill their houses with large numbers of young renters. In doing so, the company may be raising overcrowding concerns.
Asheya Accommodations signs tenancy contracts with homeowners who do not occupy their homes and then sublets the homes to up 15 renters at a time. So far, the company has rented nine homes, six of which are in South Vancouver.
The company may be contravening a municipal bylaw
A Vancouver bylaw from 1956 states that a maximum of three unrelated people can live together but Thomas Davidoff, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, said the city cannot impose large fines and therefore does not put resources into applying the bylaw.
“You have to be careful about fire safety and you know, overcrowding, but the city has a hard time enforcing its bylaws,” said Davidoff.
Crammed with renters
One rented home, on W. 46th Avenue, houses 13 residents in nine bedrooms, plus one man who lives in a van outside and uses the house facilities. The house has had three noise complaints from neighbours to police regarding parties going past midnight, and had problems early on with excess garbage attracting raccoons.
A resident of the house, Luis Quiroga, a 26-year old mechanic, said that every space, apart from the kitchen and balcony has been transformed into a bedroom.
“My room is literally the living room,” he said.
Many of the residents are young professionals from outside Canada and move out after a few months. Some people are shocked when they find out that the rents reach up to $1,300, Quiroga said.
“The thing is, this not designed for somebody who wants to be in Vancouver long-term. This is a house for somebody to make profit off international people.”
Waste management is now under control, and Quiroga said overall living in the house was a positive experience and one of the only choices he had in Vancouver.
Davidoff said the concept is good because the city’s goal has been to encourage rental stock in a market with notoriously low vacancy rates.
“I think you have a lot of incentive to do it, and not a lot of downside.”
Fine vs. profit
The Empty Homes Tax fines owners of unoccupied homes one per cent of the property value per year. For the W. 46th house that would be around $40,000. It is unclear how much of the rental profits from Asheya Accommodations goes to homeowners.
Company owner Asheya Kassner did not respond to requests for comment but her LinkedIn profile says: “I’m a visionary with the drive to see and create opportunities in our ever-evolving world.”
The profile also states that she plans to expand the company, which provides “quality, affordable housing for an underserved population: university students.”