Some homeowners will be testing B.C.'s assessment office on whether their older homes on Vancouver's west side are really worth as much as this month's valuations said they were.
One resident, a former city planner and Vancouver architect, is making the argument that the city's new policy to protect houses built before 1940 – aimed at slowing down a controversial trend of builders bulldozing older homes to erect mansions – will end up reducing the value of those lots.
So he's appealing his $3-million assessment and helping his neighbours in similar situations to file appeals as well.
"The Vancouver west side real-estate market is primarily seeking lots for redevelopment (demolition of existing homes required)," Bob McGilvray wrote in his appeal.
He said, based on conversations with city staff, that people who buy pre-1940s homes and want to tear them down and rebuild will not be allowed to build as large a house as those who buy a post-1940s house.
In fact, according to his calculations with information supplied to him by staff, someone who bought his property would be able to build a house only 86 per cent of the size of what would be allowed on another similar-sized lot with a post-1940 house. In his case, that's 660 square feet – a valuable piece of indoor space.
"Since property sales are strongly based upon the allowable buildable floor area, I believe our assessment should be reviewed and reduced," he said in his appeal.
Mr. McGilvray has no plans to sell or redevelop. In fact, he helped develop some of the city's current zones aimed at preserving older houses when he worked at the city in the 1990s.
But he doesn't think any residents should have to pay taxes on improperly calculated value. If his assessment were reduced by the $420,000 he has suggested, that would mean about $1,500 less in taxes for the year.
Some realtors say they're scrutinizing current sales to figure out whether their clients will also see the impact Mr. McGilvray is seeing.
"Common sense tells me there should be some effect like that," said Allyson Brooke, who works with Macdonald Realty on the west side.
She said that so far, she's seen only hints of what might happen.