In light of the sky-high prices for local real estate, the B.C. government is revising the homeowner grant program.
British Columbians owning homes valued up to $1.2 million may be eligible to receive a full home owner grant this year.
The threshold last year was $1.1 million. A partial grant may be available if the home is worth more than $1.2 million.
On Monday, BC Assessment released its annual figures, illustrating that many properties in Metro Vancouver would see a 15 to 25% increase in value, and thus would be disqualified from the grant this year.
Property assessments are now arriving in the mail, or you can look yours up online.
But not everyone thinks the boost is enough.
Barb Mikulec with the Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. is calling on the province to further revamp the program, warning those on fixed incomes will feel the burden most.
“The provincial government was right to increase the amount of the homeowner grant level but it nowhere near addresses the extent of the people who are going to be losing their homeowner grant by being in a category higher than what the government has now mandated.”
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie also sees problems with the program, saying basing the grant on the value of the home, rather than the income of the person living there, is regressive and needs to change.
But while the issue is causing major anxiety for some seniors, the province’s official Mackenzie does have some advice for those over 55 wanting to keep some cash in their pockets: apply to defer your property taxes.
“The province will pay the tax on their behalf to the local government, and the homeowner is charged less than 1%, I believe it is 0.85% simple interest, not compounded, simple interest, and they repay it when the home is sold.”
MAP: Examples of property value increases in Metro Vancouver
The City of Vancouver is also calling for more action, saying the new grant threshold doesn’t go far enough to address the housing affordability crisis.
Acting Mayor Raymond Louie says given current spikes in property assessments, some homeowners will still be left out of the 570 dollar homeowner grant that reduces their annual property tax bill.
“It only covers 91%, so what that is is tens of thousands of households that are not receiving the homeowners grant, and when you multiply that out, that’s millions of dollars that the province is not providing in grants.”
“If they are wanting to support people in staying in homes and having some form of affordability they should be reaching out and supporting people like they previously did. And I don’t know when that $570 amount was adjusted.”
The city is also renewing calls for a speculation tax to help slow down the practice of flipping housing, and a luxury housing tax to ensure the wealthiest buyers pay an added price.
The Reale Estate Board of Greater Vancouver is also calling the move inadequate.
President Darcy McLeod says a couple hundred dollars in savings is not a big deal with prices 1000 times that.
McLeod says the province profits from the soaring price of real estate and its time for it to re-assess the property transfer tax.
“The amount of revenue that they collect from that tax keeps going up and it isn’t benchmarked for inflated prices and it does create a significant impact particularily for the move up buyer people that are not first time buyers.”
That said he notes pricey real estate didn’t curb consumers who bought homes in record numbers in Metro Vancouver last year.