Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia keeps home assessment cap

The province is promising to keep the cap on property assessments after a review showed overwhelming support for it.

The cap on property assessments in Nova Scotia will stay in place after a review showed overwhelming support for it.

The program is designed to protect property owners from sudden increases in their assessments, which are used to determine the property taxes they pay.

The cap limits the increase to Nova Scotia's consumer price index. So this year, assessments cannot increase by more than 2.9 per cent.

The province launched a review of the program last year. It included a survey that found that 89 per cent of 1,200 respondents supported the cap.

John MacDonell, minister of municipal relations, announced Wednesday that the province was keeping the program.

"It seems generally that the program is serving its purpose, which for government was to bring predictability and stability to assessments, and Nova Scotians by and large seem to be quite pleased with it," he said.

The cap was implemented in 2005 as many property owners complained of skyrocketing property assessments. About 377,000 properties are now covered by it.

"Prior to the program coming in place we could see assessments quite often come up by 10 per cent a year, and that I think was difficult for Nova Scotians even in their budgeting to think that maybe their taxes were going to go up year to year," MacDonell said.

Some municipalities complained about the cap, arguing it was set up to help the less well off, or about 15 per cent of homeowners, but actually covered 75 per cent of homes.

Berwick Mayor John Prall said towns need more money to cover rising infrastructure costs. He said the cap puts smaller towns at a disadvantage.

"You're still gonna have to have X number of dollars to run the municipality. If you drive that too high then people aren't likely to come into your town. And so the idea is that you can buy a home in the county for cheaper," Prall said.

The province says municipalities can still adjust their rate on top of the assessment.

Under the program, the assessment cap is lifted when a house is sold, and the new homeowner must be there for a full assessment year to be eligible. The cap does not apply to new construction.