JOEL BLAU: Nova Scotia’s non-resident property tax badly misses the mark

Joel Blau

Joel Blau is Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook, NY, where he has taught public policy for the past 40 years. He is the author of, among others, The Visible Poor: Homelessness in the United States and (with Mimi Abramovitz) The Dynamics of Social Welfare Policy. He has spent his summers in Nova Scotia since 1948.

On September 11, 2001, 19 Saudi citizens flew a plane towards the Pentagon and destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. In response, the United States invaded Iraq. As a misguided response to Nova Scotia’s lack of housing, the Conservative government’s recent 2% tax on non-resident homeowners is equally misguided and misdirected.

The scum in Nova Scotia’s housing market stems from relatively low housing prices in rural Nova Scotia and the boost the pandemic has given out-of-province residents who can now work from a distance. But the bubbles on this foam cannot be so easily burst by such a crude measure.

For starters, the measure confuses supply with affordability: while non-residents with year-round homes are, in fact, slightly better off than the average Nova Scotian, there is no trickle-down mechanism. that will allow a poorer Nova Scotian to buy their new home. vacant houses. Any tax on these homes therefore begs the question: why are non-residents being taxed on vacant homes that would not be if they were owned by a Nova Scotian owner?

The effects the tax will have are much clearer than the legislative fog over its putative benefits on the housing market and the financing of health care. Nova Scotians will certainly lose the economic stimulus provided by non-residents who do not want to pay the tax; they also risk a less vibrant community life, because much of Nova Scotia’s fun in the summer – I’ve been here from the United States for almost 75 years – stems from the charity, theater and culinary events in which non- residents an active role.

Typically, taxes usually involve levies on one sector to pay for costs in another. In this case, the financial and social costs of the tax are very likely to exceed all of its claimed benefits.

If there is speculation in the housing market in Nova Scotia, the appropriate policy should make much more nuanced distinctions. A distinction should be made between summer and four-season accommodation; between high-priced condos in Halifax and log cabins on rural Nova Scotia lakes; and between residents who own housing for purely speculative purposes and those who, although they do not live here full-time, rely on their home as a site of recreation rather than a source of rental income.

Because this new tax makes none of those distinctions, it completely belies Nova Scotia’s tradition of always welcoming strangers with 100,000 welcomes.

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