Given what houses are currently going for in my neighbourhood, it would appear I’ve lost a couple hundred thousand dollars or so in recent months. I couldn’t be happier.
After spending the past few years lamenting the affordability crisis in Metro Vancouver (and elsewhere), bemoaning the complicity of the real estate industry in it all and heaping anger and scorn at provincial and municipal governments too gutless and conflicted to do anything about the situation, I can hardly cry over the fact that I’m not as rich, on paper, as I once was. I never earned that wealth anyway.
Prices for detached homes are down across Metro Vancouver and in Toronto, too. It would seem that policies brought in by governments in both provinces aimed at cooling the market are beginning to have the desired effect. This is what people were calling for, remember? The condo market still remains relatively hot, in B.C. at least, and hopefully the province will do something about the speculating and other nefarious practices revealed to have also infested that sector of the housing market.
Unsurprisingly, we are already beginning to hear the cries of outrage from people, rich by any definition, who have been impacted by some of the tax measures the NDP government in Victoria has introduced to deal with a housing mess that developed under the previous Liberal administration. People seem to be particularly incensed with the 0.2-per-cent rate increase in the province’s school tax, applied to that portion of a property assessed above $3-million. (So, for a home valued at $3.5-million, for instance, the extra tax would amount to $1,000.)
Many people, including seniors on fixed incomes, complain that they don’t have the money to pay the increase in their tax bills. They do have the option of deferring property taxes until they sell their homes but many don’t want to do that. In that case, I’m not sure how they can still complain.
Opposition to the school tax is centred, in particular, on the west side of Vancouver, where there are many homes valued at $3-million or more. Attorney-General David Eby is the MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, a west side area largely comprised of those extremely pricey properties. Mr. Eby recently cancelled a town-hall meeting in his constituency organized to allow people to voice their concerns about various issues.
Mr. Eby said that he could no longer guarantee the safety of the town-hall organizers and attendees after learning the event was going to be crashed by protesters upset about the school tax. Personally, I think he wanted to avoid being at the centre of an angry scene that would have dominated the news cycle in Metro Vancouver. It’s too bad he did.
There isn’t much sympathy for the west-side millionaires who believe they are being unfairly targeted. That is, outside the B.C. Liberal caucus and Leader Andrew Wilkinson, who has expressed great concern for their plight. Mr. Wilkinson lives on Vancouver’s west side himself. I’m not sure defending rich people upset over policies brought in, in part, to deal with a housing emergency his party refused to do anything about is a good look for the Liberals or Mr. Wilkinson.
One thing I know, however, is that people all across B.C. (and vast swaths of Ontario, too) saw unfathomable gains in the worth of their homes over the past few years. In some cases, people’s properties doubled in value. Some people added a couple million dollars or more to their bank accounts, at least on paper. Money they did absolutely nothing for. Even if prices were to plunge 20 to 30 per cent, many people will have still “made” a bundle.
Meantime, an entire generation of young people watched as the very notion of owning a home anywhere in Metro Vancouver vanished before their eyes.
The market is still out of reach for many. And it may be too far gone. But at least the NDP is trying to right a wrong here, and I hope they don’t get cowed by interest groups upset that a small portion of their wealth is disappearing. The NDP can’t forget the promise they ran on: to help people realize the same home-ownership dreams held by previous generations.
It’s going to take a lot of political courage to keep pushing onward, but onward they must push.