If you are a resident of the west vancouver area, you may be wondering about your property taxes. The good news is that there is a way to find out what your taxes are. You can subscribe to a website that provides information about your property tax.
Free subscription service for property tax inquiries
The CRA has set up a free subscription service to keep you abreast of its latest initiatives. It also has a website that has useful information on LTSA customers and services. You can even pay your taxes by credit card. Hopefully you’ve received your tax bill by now. If you haven’t, contact the tax office and see what they can do for you.
While there is no shortage of empty homes in West Vancouver, only 415 have opted into the provincial speculation tax scheme. This may be a function of a lack of municipal oversight or it might simply be a case of too little too late. Regardless, the city is home to 17,000 properties. So, a property tax that pays to help lower home prices might be in order. Not a bad idea, especially if it enables affordable housing for the growing ranks of the affluent.
Despite West Vancouver’s seemingly endless list of high-rises and row houses, only a small fraction of those have been occupied by a long-term tenant. That is a major problem in a city with a tight labor market. One solution might be to put the money firmly in the pockets of the renters. As a matter of fact, the city’s Mayor Mary Ann Booth has been a strong proponent of the proposition. Nevertheless, it would be nice if the BC government could be more responsive. After all, West Vancouver ranked among the top ten fastest growing municipalities in the country. Until such a change occurs, the municipality will be on the hook for millions of dollars in property tax dollars.
There are numerous ways to pay your dues, from the mail to the phone. Aside from the usual suspects, there are also several government subsidy programs available to eligible residents. The most lucrative of these programs is the Home Owner Grant (HOG) program. Currently, there are a few thousand applicants vying for a spot on the waiting list. However, you might be surprised to learn that only a handful qualify.
Low property taxes
Low property taxes have helped drive up home prices in Vancouver. Prices have increased by nearly 50 percent since 2000.
Although taxes have increased in the past two years, they remain among the lowest in BC and in many cities in North America. That’s good news for homeowners.
However, rising property values have priced out would-be home buyers. Those who can’t afford to buy a home in British Columbia face an excruciatingly high cost of living. A housing affordability report released in the 2020 district found that one in four renters live in a home that isn’t suitable for them.
While low property taxes and fees have helped to keep prices affordable for tenants, they’ve also driven up the price of homes. As of now, the average house in Vancouver costs about $2 million. This is compared to the average house in Surrey, which is $1.9 million.
The Vancouver tax rate is the lowest in the province. But that may be a false economy. There’s another way to boost affordability, and it’s not a tax increase. It’s a move back to a land value tax.
With a land value tax, homeowners would pay a fixed 1% on their home’s assessed value. This tax policy would be easy to administer. And it would deliver greater affordability benefits than a property tax hike.
Property prices in British Columbia are largely the result of speculative investment. Speculative investment drives up prices, but it also makes it harder for people to get a foothold in the housing market. Consequently, more housing must be built.
To discourage speculative investment, policymakers need to adopt tax policies that discourage real estate investment. In addition, all levels of government must make other policy changes.
Principal residence capital gains tax exemption
The price of real estate in West Vancouver has reached astronomical heights in the past few years. In fact, home prices in British Columbia have almost doubled over the last decade. But that doesn’t mean that housing in the province is affordable. Rather, it’s a combination of factors that are contributing to soaring costs, including powerful tax policies that are encouraging speculative investment.
For example, the capital gains tax exemption has helped funnel billions of dollars into the real estate market. The federal government exempts the capital gains on a principal residence from taxation.
A similar tax scheme, the vacancy tax, was also introduced by the NDP government. It is a 1% tax on properties that are unoccupied for six months or more. Those who qualify can apply before December 31 and defer paying the tax until they rent out their home.
However, this new tax is unlikely to cool the rising price of real estate in the city. Rather, it will have the cumulative effect of nibbling away at the margins.
What’s more, low property taxes are a boon to private landowners who can capture the increased value of their property. This is especially true in the Vancouver area, where 80% of residential land is occupied by low-density duplexes or detached houses.
Meanwhile, a new transit line is increasing the value of nearby properties. Moreover, a recently opened restaurant in Lions Bay adds to the overall appeal of nearby homes.
While the tax systems in British Columbia are helping to drive prices higher, policymakers should focus on other solutions. One of the best is to build enough new homes to help ease the strain on the community’s finances. Another is to lower the mortgage rate. That way, home owners can cut their monthly expenses, while still saving thousands of dollars.
Provincial homeowner grant
The Home Owner Grant (HOG) is a property tax reduction program administered by the Province of British Columbia. It is designed to reduce property taxes on principal residences. While the program is not automatic, eligible property owners can claim a grant before the tax due date.
Almost all homeowners in the province qualify for a Home Owner Grant. However, the application process differs from region to region. To apply, the homeowner needs to complete an online application, which is part of the annual property tax notice. If you are a senior or person with a disability, you may receive a higher grant.
The basic grant amount is $570 for properties in Metro Vancouver and $770 for homes in the Fraser Valley Regional District. Homes in northern and rural areas may also be eligible for a grant.
There are a few conditions that you must meet to be considered for the HOG. You must have a primary residence that is the same building that you live in. Your home must also have an occupant. For seniors and people with disabilities, the maximum grant is $1,045.
There are penalties for unclaimed home owner grants. An additional five percent penalty will be applied to the unpaid portion of current taxes on September 2, 2022.
A minimum of $350 must be paid by property owners to cover their property taxes. Payment can be made online or through the mail.
Property taxes are used to maintain roads and police protection. Most Canadian chartered banks provide property tax payment services.
You can find out more about the Home Owner Grant program on the Provincial Property Taxation Branch website. In addition, you can find contact information for your municipality.
Lower your mortgage rate to lower your property taxes
In the Vancouver area, property taxes are the bane of many a homeowner. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save a few extra bucks here and there.
One of the first things you should do is get a copy of your tax bill. Many cities and municipalities have free tax clinics at local libraries and other community centers. These are great opportunities to learn about how you can save thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Plus, you may be able to score some freebies.
If you don’t want to shell out for a tax consultation, you can also look to subleasing. This is a great way to defer payment on a mortgage until you are ready to move on. Not only can you cut down on your monthly payments, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of increased property value. Likewise, you can also take advantage of subsidized RV parking.
Besides saving money, you will also be rewarded with a greater sense of community. Increasing your social capital is one of the best ways to avoid resentment and escalating stress levels. You may also be pleasantly surprised by the local community services, programs, and resources available in your neighborhood. With a little foresight and planning, you can be a happy homeowner in no time. Getting your feet wet in the real estate world will only benefit you in the long run. Getting a loan for your dream home might seem like a daunting task, but with a little help, it will be easier than you think. Whether you are buying your first house or your fifth, your Vancouver home is your castle.
Among many other things, David A. Grantham is a contributing author to UmassExtension West Vancouver Blo. He is a renowned expert on real estate in BC.
Born in North Vancouver, Louisiana, Dr. Grantham grew up in Lower Lonsdale. He then went on to complete his business degree at the University British Columbia. As of this writing, Grantham has completed over 100 projects, including the development of a high rise building in Vancouver.
He is a husband, father, son, brother, and friend. He was a dedicated outdoorsman and enjoyed sports such as hunting, fishing, scuba diving, and snow skiing. His wife, Alison Grantham, and their two daughters survived him. He is survived by his wife Alison Martin Grantham and two daughters.