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Sea-to-Sky development exempt from B.C. speculation tax expansion

Phase 2 of Britannia Beach is forging ahead with million-dollar-range townhomes and a retail village just south of Squamish

A mixed-use residential project at Britannia Beach, where 73 townhomes priced in the million-dollar range are now selling in the second phase, will be exempt from this week’s expansion of the B.C. speculation tax to the Sea-to-Sky highway.

The speculation tax was expanded July 20 to include Squamish and Lions Bay on the Sea-to-Sky highway, but the historic village and mining mill site that is roughly half-way between these two towns is exempt, according to the BC Minister of Finance office.

Starting in January 2023, British Columbia is expanding the speculation tax on homeowners who keep their properties vacant to six more municipalities.

Any homeowner with a vacant residence pays 0.5 per cent of their property's assessed value under the tax, with the tax jumping to 2 per cent for foreign homeowners. The tax already applies to most municipalities in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island, as well as Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo and the District of Lantzville. It will expand to some four Vancouver Island communities, plus Lions Bay and Squamish.

The ministry provided no specific reason why Britannia Beach, 12.5 kilometres south of Squamish, is not exposed to the tax.

Adera Development Corp. and Macdonald Communities Ltd. began marketing Phase 2 of the Britannia Beach community in mid-July. In total, 20 two- and three-bedroom plus den townhomes, ranging from 1,500 to 1,700 square feet, are currently selling.

There will be 73 townhomes in all, according to Eric Andreasen, vice-president, marketing, for Adera, who noted the average pre-sale prices “are one million dollars, plus or minus.”

Andreasen said no consideration of the speculation tax was included in the pro-forma for project. He expects most buyers will be owner-occupiers in any case.

“All of the buyers in the first phase were locals. I don’t think we have to worry about investors,” he said.

“Britannia Beach presents the rare opportunity to live in an unparalleled townhome community steeped in history. The launch of homes in Phase 2 is just the beginning for Britannia Beach," Andreasen added.

Now anchored by the Britannia Mining Museum, Britannia Beach was founded a century ago in a protected bay of Howe Sound.

As well as townhomes, the Britannia Beach development will include a new village centre with local artisan shops and services, a full-service grocery store, brewpub, fitness facility, daycare and gallery spaces, most built within restored historic buildings, according to an Adera release.

The speculation tax, if eventually extended to Britannia Beach, would likely have little effect on real estate demand or prices, experience shows.

B.C.’s speculation tax was started in 2018 as means to raise the number of rentals and calm home price increases in key markets. However, since its introduction, the B.C. rental vacancy rate has fallen to record lows, rental costs have become the highest in Canada and home prices in the Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna, which are all covered by the tax, have increased by 48 per cent to 50 per cent to hit all-time highs earlier this year, according to the local real estate boards.