British Columbia

City of Vancouver considering biggest property tax increase in over a decade

If council passes the city budget as proposed, it would mean an estimated increase of $354 for the City of Vancouver's portion of the property tax bill on the median single-family home, from $3,809 to $4,163. 

Proposed 2020 budget would see an 8.2% hike and increase in the hundreds of dollars for most homes

The proposed City of Vancouver budget for 2020 contains just over $2 billion in spending. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

If you own property in Vancouver, your tax bill could be going up significantly in 2020. 

The City of Vancouver released its draft budget on Monday with a proposed 8.2 per cent property tax increase for the next year, by far the largest increase in more than a decade. 

That would be on top of increased regional tax levies already approved by Metro Vancouver for utility services like water and waste services. 

If council passes the city budget as proposed, it would mean an estimated increase of $354 for the City of Vancouver's portion of the property tax bill on the median single-family home, from $3,809 to $4,163. 

Council is expected to vote on the budget by the end of the year and may propose amendments to reduce the tax increase — as they did last year — when a proposed 4.9 per cent increase was eventually reduced to 4.5 per cent.

A special meeting is scheduled on Dec. 3 for members of the public to speak to council about the budget.

Why the big increase?

Overall, Vancouver's operating budget is proposed to increase by 7.3 per cent next year, from approximately $1.5 billion in expenses to $1.6 billion. 

According to staff, about half of that increase is due to fixed costs to maintain existing service levels, including wages, energy costs and maintenance. 

But half of the increased expenses are due to either new investments the city says is "required to ... fill gaps in service deliver and to address risks" or based on new projects council voted for in the last year. 

Examples include:

  • $8.2 million for police and fire departments, including 25 more police officers and 30 firefighters.
  • $6.8 million to "accelerate action on climate change," including tree planting and funding to support more zero emission buildings in the city.
  • $4.1 million for affordable housing policies, including a new Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy, and money to "support the City's ongoing work on homelessness."
  • $2.5 million for more street cleaning services and improving park board services. 

The city is also proposing a 22 per cent increase in its capital expenditure budget next year, from $575 to $702 million. 

Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr says she will support the budget. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

'We're playing catchup'

The final budget could see property taxes set higher or lower than the current proposal, if councillors vote in favour of amendments before it is passed.

But Coun. Adriane Carr said she believes the increase is reasonable, given how most of it is based on fixed costs or motions passed by council over the past year. 

"There's new council priorities. For me, budgets are all about delivering service that the people want. And if you're delivering that, I think people are happy," she said. 

Regardless of any amendments, it seems likely the budget will see a fourth straight year where Vancouver's average property tax increase will be higher than the year before.

But Carr said it was necessary, arguing the previous Vision Vancouver-dominated council failed to make necessary climate change and affordable housing investments while in power.

"If we had done that over the last 10 years, I don't think the increase would have been anywhere near as large this year," she said. 

"We're playing catchup."

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