British Columbia

'I don't think it's fair': Belcarra homeowners push back against B.C.'s speculation tax

B.C.'s speculation tax was introduced to cool the province's hot housing market. In the village of Belcarra, many residents say the levy unfairly targets legacy households and cottages.

'They have valuable property, no doubt, but they don't have the income,' says village mayor

Nancy Strain says her father built their family home in Belcarra, B.C., more than 50 years ago. The family now has to pay the province's speculation tax for the first time, amounting to $5,000 a year. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Nancy Strain describes her family's house as a legacy home, built by her father more than 50 years ago.

The cabin-like beachfront property was passed along to Nancy, her elderly mother, her brother and a nephew, who use it for holidays year-round and during the summer.

For the first time this year, Strain says her family will have to pay an extra $5,000 for B.C.'s speculation tax.

"I don't think it's fair," Strain said during an interview at her home on Thursday.

The speculation tax was introduced by the province to cool B.C.'s hot housing market. It targets vacant secondary homes in certain regions to discourage land speculation and drive up the number of rentals.

But in Belcarra, which is part of Metro Vancouver, Strain and many other residents say the levy unfairly targets legacy households and cottages.

The sleepy village is burrowed between regional parks and the ocean, marked by dead-end streets and few traffic lights. Its population is about 600.

Nancy Strain walks down the back steps of her property in Belcarra to the beach. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Mayor Neil Belenkie said many of the 45 properties subject to the tax in Belcarra aren't suitable to rent out.

"These are often summer cabins, there's no running water, there's no heat, often water access only, if not limited access. These people are being forced to sell their cottages because of the speculation tax," the mayor said Thursday.

"They have valuable property, no doubt, but they don't have the income," he added. "There's no cash available to be able to take on these new taxes."

Belcarra, on the shore of Indian Arm and northwest of Port Moody, draws crowds during the summer for its regional parks and water access. (Village of Belcarra)

Belenkie and Strain both say the community is hoping for a large-scale tax exemption, similar to that granted for Bowen Island, but that they've received little support from local MLA Rick Glumac.

Strain said she's not giving up, regardless.

"Over my dead body — I'm not going to pay that tax. So, we'll have to find another way," she said.

CBC News contacted Glumac for comment but did not hear back by deadline.

Belcarra Mayor Neil Belenkie said the province's speculation tax punishes local residents. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

With files from Jon Hernandez and Justin McElroy