Will taxes be the death of small businesses in Vancouver?
Tax reform in Vancouver is an issue that has been simmering behind the scenes for years, September 25th it's about to come front and centre
Wednesday September 25th the City's recently reconvened Property Tax Review Commission will be holding a public panel at the VanDusen Gardens, BMO Great Hall (5251 Oak Street at West 37th Avenue, 6:00 – 9:00pm). It's not just small business owners who should be raising their voices and asking questions of the Commission there, anyone who cares about the affordability and livelihoods of our neighbourhoods in general should be interested in how this discussion continues to unfold.
Anyone concerned about the impacts of gentrification in low-income communities should also consider being there. This is one of those issues that has been slowly simmering behind the scenes for years now and hasn't garnered nearly as much attention as it should considering just how much it has directly impacted the way our city has developed over the past decade or more. That's likely to change.
Vancouver feels like it's approaching a watershed moment. For years, concerns over a rising cost of living, access to affordable housing, child poverty and a stagnant median income have persisted. Recently, as investors and developers have searched for the increasingly limited space in Vancouver to build on, the patterns of development have crept eastward, not entirely but noticeably.
Some perhaps see the East Side of town as terra nullius or tabula rasa, others might be inspired to retain heritage assets, some just probably can't make the numbers work anywhere else in town right now. There are a range of factors.
With this though has come a surge in tensions between residents, developers, new businesses and City Hall in Grandview Woodlands, Mt. Pleasant and the Downtown Eastside whose areas have seen an influx of a new income earners and culture, taller buildings and higher end businesses. All this while concerns about the city becoming a glorified resort town for the wealthy (or as Andy Yan puts it a Zombie City) have cropped up time and time again in the past decade.
In essence there's a feeling that has been hovering around for years now that we're losing our city. It's disappearing before our eyes as Vancouver Vanishes, a popular Facebook Page aptly captures. The fact is, cities change. Sometimes this happens slowly but sometimes this happens rapidly. In the case of Vancouver it's the latter, and that makes it more contentious.
The factors driving that rapid change are related to an assortment of complex inputs, the emergence of the global financial and real estate markets and increases in foreign direct investment, immigration and shifting demographics (the greying of our population for example) a global urban migration and other trends that involve different levels of government or processes that are well beyond our control.