Homeowners packed a west-side gymnasium in Vancouver Sunday to raise concerns about a new tax on expensive homes.
The meeting, hosted by the West Point Grey Residents Association, was at times rowdy, with many of those in attendance booing loudly when B.C. Attorney-General and Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby spoke to defend the tax.
Mr. Eby, however, said some of the concerns related to the tax are based on misinformation and that opponents include developers and speculators who are concerned it will cut into their profits.
He cited the example of a man he called Frank, who owns a $7-million house mortgage-free, yet says he is in living in poverty.
“He has not been deferring his property taxes to date,” Mr. Eby said. “He is less likely to defer now because he has been receiving flyers telling him that the highly subsidized deferral program is not available or it is a secret way for government to take his house,” he added.
Liberal MLA Andrew Wilkinson spoke against the tax, calling it a “tax on your family home” and suggesting that Mr. Eby was not listening to constituents’ concerns.
“This is an asset tax,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “No consultation, no reasoning and it’s been given a phony name. It has nothing to do with schools – it’s going to general revenue.”
Mr. Wilkinson and other critics say the tax is being pitched as helping education but that there is no guarantee funds raised from it would be used for that purpose.
The meeting was held to discuss a tax hike on expensive homes. The NDP government introduced the measure in its February budget as part of several steps to cool down Vancouver’s overheated real estate market.
Beginning in 2019, the government plans to impose an additional school tax on high-valued properties. The tax – which would apply to detached homes, condos or townhouses that fall under B.C.’s strata property regulations and most vacant land – would kick in at $3-million.
The tax wouldn’t apply to non-strata buildings that have four or more units.
The rate is 0.2 per cent on the residential portion assessed between $3-million and $4-million and 0.4 per cent on the portion assessed over $4-million.
So, for example, the owner of a property assessed at $4-million would face additional taxes of $2,000 next year, above and beyond the usual annual property-tax bill. For the owner of a $5-million home, the increase would be $6,000.
Critics of the tax say it puts an unfair burden on people, including some senior citizens, who have fixed incomes and would have a hard time paying thousands of dollars extra each year.
Supporters say such owners could defer paying those taxes, through a low-interest provincial program that already exists, and that those owners – or their heirs – would still come out ahead financially if and when the property is sold and deferred taxes came due.
The tax was not part of the NDP campaign platform and has drawn fire from some residents of neighbourhoods where many homes are assessed above $3-million, including Mr. Eby’s Vancouver-Point Grey riding.
On May 1, Mr. Eby cancelled a town-hall meeting about the tax, citing security concerns after the 300 tickets for the event sold out and amid concerns that people without tickets might try to enter.
Speakers at the event lined up to ask questions and raise their concerns, which mostly focused on the potential impact of the tax on households and neighbourhoods. One speaker, a doctor, said the tax would result in others in his profession leaving Vancouver and would make it more difficult to attract new, young doctors to the city. Another woman, who said her house is worth $6-million, says she feels that she is being forced to sell her house or triple the rent of a tenant who currently lives in the property.