Property assessment increases soar past 40 per cent mark

Housing advocate worries about Home Owner Grant eligibility

A pair of single-family homes in Vancouver have higher assessed values than a pristine, 780-acre island off of Victoria.  

That’s just one sobering statistic included in a report issued Jan. 3 by the B.C. Assessment Authority that points to 40 per cent increases for some properties across the city.

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Examples provided by the assessment authority point to individual cases, rather than city-wide changes.

That said, examples show that a 33-foot, single-family lot on both the East and West Sides experienced a 41 per cent increase: on the West Side the jump went from $1.94 million to $2.74 million, while the East side lot ballooned from $947,300 to $1,338,900.

Some individual strata assessments illustrate increases in the 20 to 25 per cent range: the West Side numbers rise to $827,000 from $662,000, and the East Side values jump to $486,000 from $405,000.

“The area that those single-family dwellings have increased 30 to 50 per cent really extends right from Squamish clean through to Abbotsford and Chilliwack,” said Jason Grant, regional assessor for B.C. Assessment.

The numbers contained in the report reflect assessed values as of July 1, 2016, when the market was at a peak. A property’s physical condition is assessed as of Oct. 31, 2016.

Assessments are based on a number of factors: property size, age, quality, view and location. Changes in assessment can vary wildly from property to property, but that’s not to suggest a sudden shift in assessment automatically translates to a property tax hike.

“Your taxes are more affected by how your assessment changes compared to the average change in your community,” Grant said.

The elephant in the room is how these assessment changes will affect Home Owner Grants. The threshold to receive those grants, which helps homeowners lower their property taxes, is $1.2 million.

“The Home Owner Grant is going to be a huge wildcard,” said Justin Fung, spokesperson for the housing advocacy group known as HALT (Housing Action for Local Taxpayers). “You have people who have been in homes that were affordable before and now they may not be. It’s a double whammy. There will be working-class folks who are hit pretty hard with that increase and the additional taxes.”

Nine of the 10 priciest properties in the province are all on Vancouver’s West Side, namely in Kitsilano, Point Grey and Shaughnessy. The property at 3085 Point Grey Rd., reportedly owned by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, topped the list at $75.8 million. The property was assessed at $63.87 million last year.

The home listed in the number two spot, located on Belmont Avenue in Kits, has an assessed value of $69.2 million.

The James Island property located north of Victoria, which ranked third on the list, came in at $53.2 million. Media reports from 2012 and 2014 suggested that the second-largest, privately owned Gulf Island was on the market for a cool $75 million. The Sotheby’s listing to sell the island is no longer online, and it’s unclear if the property is still for sale.

Those wanting to appeal their assessment must do so by Jan. 31. Assessment authority stats suggest one to two per cent of property owners go that route annually. A review panel hears those appeals between Feb. 1 and March 15 and decisions are then mailed out in April.

“Even with the large increases we saw last year, that number [of appeals] didn’t change very much and was well within that one to two per cent — we’re not expecting that to change this year,” Grant said. Homeowners can expect to receive their assessment notices in the mail this week.  

@johnkurucz

jkurucz@vancourier.com

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