VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – As expected the provincial government has announced changes to the homeowner grant. The finance minister releasing details this morning, saying the threshold will increase to $1.6 million in a bid to help keep property taxes affordable.
“This is a 33 per cent increase over last year,” says Mike de Jong. “We are doing our part to help keep housing costs affordable for families. Local governments can also work to keep property taxes at a manageable level for residents by controlling their spending and reigning in the amount of revenue they need to operate.”
In a statement, the provincial government says it’s projected to spend $821 million on these grants in 2017-18, compared to about $809 million in 2016-17.
Victoria has also announced it’s going to reimburse cities for the full cost of the grant to ensure municipalities are not impacted. “The strength of the province’s economy and sound fiscal management have put us in a position to raise the threshold by such a large amount this year to help home owners.”
The government claims the basic grant can lower residential property taxes on an owner’s principal residence by up to $570, or if the home is located in a northern and rural area, up to $770. Another grant is being made available to home owners 65 and older, or those who qualify under the persons with disabilities category, or who are the surviving spouse of a veteran who received specific war-veteran allowances.
Not everyone is happy with today’s move. NDP Housing Critic David Eby notes the $570 grant amount will remain the same. “Nobody is really winning here.”
Eby doesn’t feel this will help people who have stretched their finances to afford a home, only to see their property value assessment rise beyond their means. “It’s especially harsh for people who bought a home in a far-flung suburb of Vancouver, who are commuting a long distance because that’s what they could afford.”
Eby would like to see a regional solution to address areas of BC with different housing challenges. “In Fort Saint John, property values have actually gone down but in areas like Tsawwassen people are seeing their properties increasing by 100 per cent.”
He’s not surprised by the threshold increase but is surprised at how long it took the government to announce the changes.