As real estate values continue to rise across the province, the B.C. government is raising the threshold for the homeowner grant to $1.65 million for 2018.
The move is meant to ensure that the same percentage of homes are eligible for the grant as in 2017, when the threshold was $1.6 million, according to a press release from the ministry of finance.
The government says almost every home in most B.C. communities is valued below the new threshold.
On the West Side of Vancouver, on the other hand, the typical single-family home has been assessed well above that number, at more than $2.4 million. Typical detached houses in most parts of West Vancouver and Whistler, as well as several other neighbourhoods throughout Metro Vancouver, also exceed the new threshold.
The basic homeowner grant is $570 and will be automatically calculated based on property tax notices. The amount rises to $770 if the home is in a northern or rural area; up to $845 for seniors and people with disabilities; and up to $1,045 for people who meet a combination of those criteria.
Only homes used as an owner's primary residence are eligible for the grant.
Seniors, people with disabilities and others earning a low income can also apply to supplement their grants that have been reduced or eliminated for 2018 due to a high assessed value, and people over the age of 55 or who are supporting dependent children can apply for a property tax deferment.
The province estimates the grants will return $825 million to homeowners in 2018, an amount that the government reimburses to municipalities.
"It's hard to think that current owners of homes at one million, 1.5 million and even higher levels are encouraged or really helped much by receiving this relatively small sum," said J. Rhys Kesselman, an economist and professor emeritus at SFU's school of public policy.
Kesselman says it would be better policy to replace the homeowner grant altogether, because the amount granted does little to improve affordability, and neglects renters, as well.
"This is a very broad brush, scattered kind of approach for dispersing a large amount of public funds," he said.
Instead, Kesselman recommends issuing subsidies based on people's current income or reallocating the money to programs that help new home buyers.
With files from CBC's On the Coast