Comment: Lower residential property assessments set to raise Metro Vancouver tax rates

With valuation day behind us and home values clearly down, will property tax rate rise to cover revenue shortfall?

With the first half of the year done, the number crunchers will be busy sorting the data for initial insights on the market with a view to figuring out where the second half will take us. With many first-half numbers not due out till September, what’s happened to date will also set the tone for the final push to the end of the year.

Part of that push will be the BC Assessment Authority’s work developing the 2020 assessment roll. The initial valuation date for the roll is July 1. On the residential side, at least in Metro Vancouver, the trend promises lower assessment values for residential properties.

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Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver statistics showed a cumulative decline in the benchmark price of nine per cent in June versus a year earlier, to $998,700. This marked the 13th straight monthly decline and the first time since June 2017 that the benchmark dipped below $1 million. (Indeed, it was the exact same price as in June 2017.)

But the slowdown in home sales could make it difficult for owners of more-expensive properties to get an accurate assessment of their properties’ worth, warns Paul Sullivan, a principal with appraisal firm Burgess, Cawley, Sullivan & Associates Ltd.

“[This past year] BC Assessment took the position that the fact there were very few [home] sales did not support that there was a significant change in the market value,” he said last week. “There still has not been a sale in the city of Vancouver over $15 million and there are very, very, very few sales over $10 million.… To substantiate the market value of a home in British Columbia over $5 million is still extremely difficult.”

It’s not just top-end properties that are affected by the situation.

While values on more affordable properties have been more resilient, they’ve not only taken a hit in value but will end up having to shoulder the shortfall in revenue needed to run the city. A decrease in the value of the tax roll means the tax rate will have to increase to cover the city’s rising expenses – expenses boosted by other taxes such as the employer health tax, which became owing last month.


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