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Vancouver has $38 million for affordable housing thanks to the Empty Homes Tax

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Photo: Colin Knowles/Flickr

Vancouver’s empty-home tax may not have improved affordability for renters in one of the country’s tightest apartment markets, but it did exceed policymakers’ expectations in another way.

In its first year since being approved by Vancouver city council, the tax has raised $38 million in revenue, exceeding the $30-million estimate released in April. That could be good news for renters, because as per the city’s recently published Empty Homes Tax Annual Report, the money “must be used for the purposes of initiatives respecting affordable housing.”

Lauded as the first tax of this kind on the continent, the levy is applied to properties that owners aren’t renting or using as a primary residence for at least half a year. Some other exemptions apply — such as if the land is vacant — and the tax works out to 1 percent of a property’s assessed value.

Of the 186,043 homes that were assessed as of November 1st, a total of 2,538 were deemed vacant, while 5,385 homes that were not occupied were exempt for various reasons.

Some 60 percent of vacant or exempt properties were condos and 34 percent were single-family homes. “Aligning with the high density of condos in the downtown core, the largest number of vacant and exempt properties was recorded in Downtown Vancouver,” reads the report.

In 2017, Shaughnessy had the highest share of vacant or exempt units at 8 percent. At 2 percent, Sunset had the fewest.

“With the first year of Empty Homes Tax declarations complete, staff will continue to monitor the impact of the tax on housing supply and affordability, as part of the City’s broader set of actions in its 10-year Housing Vancouver strategy,” the report concludes.

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New home? Prepare for the unexpected

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(NC) Buying a house, getting married or having your first baby are all major life events that are likely to affect your finances. But whether you’re in the midst of a major life event or not, it’s important to check in on your finances regularly to maintain good financial health.

Your financial health encompasses things like your spending, savings, borrowing and future financial plans. It also means dedicating a set amount of savings for unexpected future events. It can even include optional credit protection insurance, such as TD protection plans, to help cover your debt balances in case of death, a covered critical illness or total disability.

Even though it can be tough to think about the unexpected, life is unpredictable and it’s important to plan for the unexpected. Find more information at td.com.

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Mortgage pitfalls to avoid

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(NC) Throughout life, you may have moments where you’ll make a large purchase or invest in a costly item, like your family home. But whether you’re in the market for your first new property or already have a mortgage, leaving this asset unprotected can be costly.   

Insuring your housing financial debt, as well as debt for other big-ticket items like a new boat for your lakefront cottage or keepsake jewelry like an engagement ring, is a smart investment in your well-being.

To help protect your debt balances like a mortgage, your bank may have optional credit protection insurance products.

“Your home is one of your biggest assets, yet illness can happen at any stage of life. Worrying about your mortgage when the focus should be on health isn’t a situation anyone would wish for,” explains Shirley Malloy, vice president at TD. “Fortunately, we offer mortgage protection to provide coverage for your outstanding balance should you face a covered critical health event.”

Mortgage protection can be purchased whether you’re in the process of applying for a mortgage or already have a home financing solution. But what about protection options for credit card debt?

“Given the unprecedented circumstances of this year, many Canadians are trying to plan for the unexpected to protect themselves and their finances,” says Malloy. “TD balance protection plus is an optional product designed to help you deal with your credit card payment obligations in the event of a covered event, such as loss of employment.”

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Is your internet too slow? It’s probably not you

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(NC) We all know the aggravation of a school lesson that just won’t stop freezing or the family video call that looks more like a photo montage. And, as we adjust to the impact of COVID-19 on our day-to-day, that slow connection can have frustrating consequences.

Working from home and learning remotely, both need fast, stable internet, something not enough Canadians have yet. Even if you have fast devices in your home, if the infrastructure in your area is not optimal, your connection won’t be either.

Right now, cities have the infrastructure needed to ensure access. But rural and remote communities are hugely underserved, with fewer than half having high-speed internet, and fewer than a third of households on reservations have high-speed connections.

Fortunately, change is coming. The Universal Broadband Fund is backing projects across Canada right now to ensure the reliable, high-speed internet connections families need to work, study, access services online, and safely stay in touch with each other.

The fund existed before COVID, but as a response to the pandemic, its timetable has been moved up by four years to a target of 98 per cent of Canadians with high-speed internet access by 2026. With the faster pace, at least 90 per cent of us should be connected by the end of 2021.

The fund is focused on improvements in rural and remote communities across Canada to fix the disconnect between internet access for urban and rural households.  This means more remote work opportunities, better access to remote learning and safer access to healthcare, no matter where you live.

It’s not just for good connections at home, either. The improvements mean much better access to mobile networks on highways between remote communities. The result is better, safer navigation and access to emergency services for your family, even on the road in the middle of nowhere. Mobile projects will be focused on serving Indigenous communities and the roads leading to them.

The shape these improvements will take in your area will depend on where you live. Canada is huge, and its communities are hugely diverse, with diverse needs. Keep an eye out for local projects — they’re a small part of something much bigger.

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