Douglas Todd: Canadians’ houses are not really their ‘castles’

“A man’s house is his castle.”

— The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628

Should Canadians have total control over their dwellings? Or is housing a public good, a social benefit to be somehow supported and shared by all members of society?

That is the contentious question under the surface of the housing debate in Metro Vancouver and Toronto and other sought-after gateway cities, where unprecedented high prices are squeezing generations of people, especially the young, out of owning and in many cases even renting a home.

It is also the philosophical question facing politicians, as some feel it necessary to challenge a tradition in which many in the West believe their house, their private property, is their “castle” — which some interpret to mean the state has no right to impose on it.

The ethical debate forms the backdrop to the B.C. government’s proposed “speculation tax” on empty second dwellings. It also relates to B.C.’s so-called “school tax” on houses valued above $3 million, not to mention to a range of housing surcharges in cities around the world.

B.C. Attorney-General David Eby — one of the first politicians to warn Metro Vancouver was in a housing crisis in part fuelled by foreign-sourced capital — recently made the argument that housing is a public good while defending the speculation tax, which is expected to be introduced later this year on owners of second urban homes that are left empty for the majority of the year.

The government says the tax will only apply to one per cent of British Columbians. In 2019, non-Canadians will be asked to pay a rate of two per cent, while Canadians whose primary residence is outside B.C. will pay one per cent. B.C. residents will get off the lightest, paying 0.5 per cent and being eligible for a $2,000 a year credit. But that has not stopped many critics from seizing on how the speculation tax may hit some British Columbians who own second dwellings in the province’s key cities.

“There are certain markets, in Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna, where there is a real housing crisis. So it’s great for people to own vacation properties in these areas … where there is a shortage of housing. But that doesn’t come without a cost to the community,” Eby recently told The Vancouver Sun and Province’s editorial board, defending his government’s philosophy.

“The cost to the community is you …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Business

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