Metro Vancouver moves forward with new taxes for housing and parks
The proposals would add about $8 to every property tax bill in the region
Metro Vancouver approved two additions to its 2020 budget that could add around $8 to the average property tax bill of every home in the region.
By a unanimous vote, the board approved including in its draft budget an extra $4 million for regional parks and $4 million for affordable housing for next year.
If passed in the final budget later this year, around a million homes in Metro Vancouver will see the increase reflected in their tax bills — part of about $500 that Metro Vancouver collects from the average household each year.
The $4 million for housing is intended to be an annual levy, while the $4 million for regional parks is scheduled to increase to $8 million in 2021, $12 million in 2022, $16 million in 2023 and $20 million in 2024.
500 new units of housing
Both recommendations had already been approved by committees of Metro Vancouver which brings together representatives of 21 municipalities in the Lower Mainland.
"In the last election, just about everyone in this room talked about the need to step up our game on affordable housing. I don't see anything more important for the residents of the lower mainland than this issue," said Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley.
Metro Vancouver currently operates 49 housing sites for more than 9,000 people, mostly two or three-bedroom homes in Vancouver, New Westminster, Richmond or Surrey. Rent is either tied below the area's market value or based on the renter's income.
It's estimated the levy could create an additional 500 units over the next decade.
As for the parks levy, Metro Vancouver says the additional $60 million over five years will help it purchase of the 1,286 hectares "of properties of interest for regional parks and greenways," and allow it to improve some of the 22 regional parks already in its portfolio.
"Those wild open spaces are why people want to come here, because we're such a livable community," said North Vancouver District councillor Lisa Muri.
"There's an urgency now, given the market, given what's going on in the region, and that has to be very clear in everybody's mind."
Budget planning concerns
But not every director was fond of the proposed new levies.
"I don't care how good your idea is, we don't go outside the budget process," said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.
He ultimately voted for both proposals, but said the discussion should take place in the official budget planning process, where all revenues and expenditures are considered at the same time, rather than in individual committees.
"We can't see it in a vacuum. Almost anything you bring forward here is going to be a good idea in a vacuum ... you have to see it in the context of the full budget."
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart voted against the housing proposal saying it was an area of provincial and federal jurisdiction — but he was the only director to do so.
"Those two senior levels of government have failed. They've failed to help us with the housing crisis," said Delta Coun. Lois Jackson.
"And in my opinion, when they fail, we can pick it up."
Metro Vancouver also voted to give Delta permission to approve an industrial park on land adjacent to Burns Bog.