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Higher Vancouver assessments, rents renew focus on tax shift call

Condo and office towers fill the downtown skyline in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 30, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The call by small businesses in Vancouver for a tax shift is being renewed amid higher assessments and rents in the city

Small business group puts forward proposal to city council asking for a tax shift

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As small businesses in Vancouver deal with higher property assessments in many cases — including the higher taxes that often come with them — they’re asking for taxes to shift partially to you.

The idea is for households to share more of the tax burden.

This call comes as we hear stories of a number of small businesses considering closing due to rapidly increasing property taxes and rents.

“It would be somewhere between around $80 a year that we’re asking for on an average house in the City of Vancouver,” Patricia Barnes with the Hastings North Business Improvement Association says. “That’s more symbolic than anything else, just showing that this new city council really wants to look at how to help small businesses in the city.”

Barnes says a tax shift would mean some of those smaller operations in your neighbourhood might be able to stay viable.

“One of the fundamental keys for a healthy city is a healthy neighbourhood, and part of that is a healthy small business neighbourhood,” she adds.

Vancouver city staff are currently examining the proposal.

On whether Vancouverites are willing to shoulder more of the tax burden, opinion is mixed.

“Yes, I would, because it would stop the big guys from being able to kind of bulldoze into neighbourhoods,” one woman tells NEWS 1130.

“Not really,” another person says. “Because all you’re doing is shifting it over.”

Barnes says the hardest thing for businesses to deal with in Vancouver is the property tax. Another, directly related, she says is the “triple net lease” that all businesses are subject to across the country.

“It is where you have your base rent, and then on top of that you get charged back for utilities and property tax and things like that,” she says. “So triple net means that you pay your base rent plus you take care of the operating cost of the building that you’re in, as far as property taxes and utilities are concerned.”

If triple net leases are removed, Barnes says the association fears gross rent will just increase to incorporate costs the property owner will have to bare.

“If we want to remain a vibrant, fundamental city that supports unique and independent small business, we need to figure out how to do that,” Barnes adds.