Vancouver city council asks province to rescind real estate tax

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has sent a letter to Premier John Horgan asking the province to rescind a new tax on real estate even though Stewart supports the tax.

Mayor Stewart Kennedy loses vote over motion to send letter that says tax is unfair

Kennedy Stewart, pictured here in the centre with Vancouver councillors, voted against a motion that resulted in the city sending a letter to the province asking it to rescind a controversial new real estate tax. (City of Vancouver)

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has sent a letter to Premier John Horgan asking the province to rescind a new tax on real estate even though Stewart supports the tax.

The tax, called a school tax surcharge, was announced as part of the B.C. 2018 budget and will start in 2019. It is an additional tax applied to homes worth $3 million or more.

It's part of the government's 30-point housing plan which is meant to address the housing crisis in the province.

Those opposed to the tax argue that the tax hike is unfair and will result in a dramatic bill increase for many people, some of whom are on fixed incomes.

The letter is a result of a motion from Councillor Rebecca Bligh, which was passed on Dec. 12.

Alvin Singh, director of communications for Stewart, said the mayor voted against sending the letter, as did councillors Christine Boyle and Jean Swanson, but the motion passed with support from Green and NPA councillors.

Several dozen people rallied against the B.C. government's proposed school tax increase at Trimble Park in May, 2018. (CBC)

Stewart's letter said the city has heard from residents who say their taxes have increased as property values across the city have also increased.

The letter also warns that residents may blame the city — not the province — for the tax hike because the municipality collects the tax for the province.

'Revolt'

"Residents could perceive the increase on their property tax bill is a result of municipal financial mismanagement and thus could 'revolt' against the City of Vancouver property tax increases," says the letter.

The city is considering raising property taxes by 4.9 per cent in 2019.

The letter, sent to Horgan, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson, asks the province to withdraw the surcharge, "on the provincial school tax as an incursion onto an established municipal land tax base."

Mayor votes against letter

Singh says Stewart remains supportive of the new tax because it addresses the province's housing crisis.

Homeowners can expect to pay an additional 0.2 per cent tax on the portion assessed between $3-$4 million, and 0.4 per cent tax rate for the portions above the $4 million mark. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The B.C. Green Party has not yet commented on the letter, but in May, leader Andrew Weaver said the principles of the tax are in line with the party's policies, but the party would do things differently.

The B.C. Liberal Party says it supports the request and wants to work within government to have it abolished.

The premier's office has not responded to a request for comment on the letter. It is dated Friday, Dec. 14.

As for the surcharge, homeowners can expect to pay an additional 0.2 per cent tax on the portion assessed between $3 and $4 million, and 0.4 per cent tax rate for the portions above the $4-million mark, according to the province.

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