British Columbia's New Democrat government is expanding one of its first measures to combat the housing crisis to include 13 more communities. 

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy said Wednesday the New Democrat government's speculation and vacancy tax, introduced in 2018, will now apply to 59 B.C. cities and towns. 

Vernon, Penticton, Courtenay and Kamloops are among the 13 communities that have been added, and starting in 2025 residential property owners will have to declare how they used the home in 2024. 

Other communities being brought under the speculation umbrella are Coldstream, Summerland, Lake Country, Peachland, Comox, Cumberland, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, and Salmon Arm.

The levy aims to get more people into empty homes and has collected $313 million since 2018. 

"Through this expansion, the speculation and vacancy tax is encouraging owners of multiple homes to rent them or sell them," said Conroy.

She said independent data found the speculation tax helped increase the available rental stock in Metro Vancouver in 2020 by 20,000 units.

But Penticton Mayor Julius Bloomfield said in a statement the local council was disappointed it was not consulted about the province's plans to implement a speculation tax for the city that relies on its tourism industry. 

“While this Council shares the province’s goals of addressing the need for affordable housing as demonstrated by the work of our housing task force, we question the province’s lack of recognition of Penticton’s unique needs," said Bloomfield. "That this unilateral decision to expand the speculation tax to our community has come at the same time we’re still trying to understand the consequences of the changes to the short-term regulations is especially concerning." 

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the government's recent legislation restricting short-term rental accommodations in B.C. is already showing increases in long-term rental listings in Kelowna and Victoria despite the law not taking affect until May 2024.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2023.