There is a bizarre case in English Bar Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia where the wife of a Chinese multimillionaire is suing the government over a $200,000 tax bill for leaving her $20.4 million mansion empty. There were a couple of notable facts in the story that attracted my attention. First, this is a uniquely stupid law that fines you for not living in your own home. Second, this home is owned by He Yiju and her husband Zheng Jianjiang, a top politician in China’s National People’s Congress. That’s right. This is a humble dwelling of a dedicated Communist public official.
The home was purchased in 2015. However, Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax requires owners of unoccupied homes to pay a 1% levy on their properties’ values. The purpose was to force turnover in the city’s housing stock, which is skyrocketing in value. Putting aside that the family insists that the home is not vacant, the law denies basic notions of owning property in fee simple. If I want to own a home and leave it for much of the year, I fail to see the right of a city to fine me for the use or lack of use of my own property.
As for the family, this appears another example of the “Red Aristocracy,” Communists living for the spoils of a corrupt, authoritarian regime. Chinese billionaire and parliamentarian Zheng Jianjiang helps oversee a body that helps shield the authoritarian policies of the Chinese regime in repressing millions. He then gets to run off to his mansion on “Billionaire’s Row” in Vancouver. Their family had a combined net worth of $925 million in October 2018, according to Forbes. I understand how irritating it is to have unoccupied homes in tight markets. Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, for example, reportedly owns two homes in Vancouver worth $4.2 million and $12.2 million. Thus, I have little sympathy for the owners but the law still strikes me as fundamentally wrong with basic notions of ownership.
What do you think?