A spike in property assessments in Metro Vancouver means thousands no longer qualify for the Home Owner Grant, unless the provincial government steps in.
The property assessments for 2015 released on Monday confirmed the value of many properties in Greater Vancouver jumped 10 to 30 per cent in value in the past year.
That has pushed the assessed value of many homes over the threshold of $1,100,000 to qualify for the full $570 grant.
Anyone whose primary home is worth up to $1,214,000 is still eligible to receive a reduced grant, but above that value, homeowners in Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Greater Victoria will no longer qualify for a grant.
City Councilor Nick Volkow has lived in Burnaby for more than three decades. He's watched the value of his home just keep climbing.
"My assessment went up from $956,000 last year, which I thought was completely insane, to this year $1,311,700, which is completely insane," said Volkow.
Like many Metro Vancouverites, Volkow's house is now worth too much for him to qualify for the annual Home Owner Grant.
Volkow says losing that grant can be tough for a lot of people — especially those on a fixed income.
"I worry more for the residents in our community that are long-time homeowners that have lived in their home."
Threshold under review
Volkow blames the federal and provincial governments for not doing something to curb rising real estate prices.
But the threshold for the grant is under the control of B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong, who is said to be reviewing the issue.
In 2009 and 2010, the province set the threshold at $1.05 million. In 2011, the threshold was raised to $1.15 million.
But it does not always go up. In 2014 de Jong lowered the threshold to $1.1 million in an effort to save the province some cash and help balance the budget.
At that time the Finance Ministry said at least 93.8 per cent of homeowners will still be eligible for the grant, down from at least 95 per cent when the threshold was originally set.
It remains unclear exactly how many homeowners will still qualify for the grant this year, based on the new property assessments and the existing threshold.
In a statement, a spokesperson said the finance minister is currently reviewing the threshold, but has to make those decisions in context of a balanced budget.
Anxious home owners may have to wait until February to find out what de Jong plans to do, when he releases the upcoming provincial budget.
Values on the rise
The rising home assessment don't come as a complete surprise. Last month B.C. Assessment sent out warning letters to about 37,000 property owners — mostly in Greater Vancouver — to brace themselves for a sharp rise in their property assessments in the new year.
B.C. Assessment does not release the average value for properties in each municipality, but it did release the percentage increase in property values for municipal areas.
The municipalities with the largest increases in property values were:
- Lions Bay: 17.96 per cent.
- Squamish: 17.33 per cent.
- Burnaby: 17.01 per cent.
- West Vancouver 16.9 per cent.
- Vancouver: 16.84 per cent.
B.C. assessment also provided some examples of how the increases are affecting the values of a several homes. For example one house in East Vancouver built in 1983, which was assessed under $1 million last year, is now assessed at nearly $1.3 million, for a total increase of 28 per cent.
A similar increase of 27 per cent is coming for the owners of a 1971 Burnaby home in the Buckingham neighbourhood, which saw its value rise from $1.47 million to $1.86 million.
The increased assessments don't mean property taxes will go up the same rate, because municipalities normally adjust their tax rate based on the change in property assessments.
But homeowners whose assessed values increase more than the average in that municipality — owners of single family homes in most cases, as strata assessments will jump less than 10 per cent — will end up paying a greater share of property taxes.
Some relief still available
There are a number of programs that still provide relief for those who qualify as part of the provincial Home Owner Grant program
- Homes below the threshold outside the Capital, Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts qualify for a larger grant of $770.
- Homes above the threshold in rural and northern areas are eligible to receive a partial grant up to a higher level of $1,254,000.
- Homeowners may also qualify for a higher grant amount if they are:
- a veteran
- a person with a disability
- living with a person with a disability
- a senior
In order to be get any of the cash though, home owners must file an application. Further details are on the government website.