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‘Property tax, assessment increases not same’

  - The News files
— image credit: The News files

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows homes were worth more last summer, but that doesn’t mean owners are facing the same increase in property taxes this year.

Cities set their tax rates based on the amount of money needed from the residential class of property.

According to a city release last week, the value of the average home assessed in July 2016 in Maple Ridge has jumped by 35 per cent.

“Just because property assessments have gone up an average of 35 per cent, does not mean that taxes will be going up by 35 per cent,” Mayor Nicole Read said.

The city’s financial plan calls for an average 3.15-per-cent increase in municipal property taxes this year.

That means homeowners whose homes have increased in value by the average amount will pay the average amount of tax increase. Homes that have risen in value by more than that amount will see higher tax increases.

In order to explain the calculations, the City of Maple Ridge has borrowed a YouTube video by the Municipal Property Assessment of Ontario.

The increase only pertains to municipal taxes and doesn’t include utility charges, which have also gone up, as well as school taxes and Metro Vancouver and TransLink levies, which are also part of homeowner bills.

Once utility charges for water, sewer and recycling are added in, the tax increase for all municipal purposes will be 3.38 per cent, working out to about another $100 per residence.

In Pitt Meadows, the average home value has jumped by 31 per cent. Residents there are currently facing 1.92-per-cent increase in taxes for municipal purposes, although council has yet to go through its budget and set the final increase.

Some Metro Vancouver homeowners are in panic mode after receiving property assessments in the mail this month showing huge jumps in their valuations.

Steve Miller, a senior appraiser at Bakerview Realty Appraisals, which handles assessment appeals across the Lower Mainland, said “there’s just a sense of shock and disbelief among the public with respect to assessments right now,” he said. “The inquiries are probably up 700 or 800 per cent in terms of people asking our opinions of whether it’s worth pursuing an assessment appeal.”

Mostly, Miller has been talking them down from the ceiling, explaining that the valuation set by B.C. Assessment may very well have been an accurate snapshot as of July 1, as that was before the foreign buyers’ tax took effect in August and had a cooling effect on the market.

Miller cautions that paying money for a retroactive appraisal to fight an appeal is unlikely to pay for itself through lower property taxes if it only results in a valuation drop of $100,000 or so.

“Your savings in tax for every 100,000 is not immense.”

B.C. Assessment said the typical increase was 30 to 50 per cent, depending on the neighourhood and other factors, for detached houses in most urban parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

However, the housing market has cooled since the peak of last summer with house prices dropping, following the implementation of the 15-per-cent foreign buyer’s tax in Metro Vancouver.

Real estate prices in Metro Vancouver have dropped by as much as 10 per cent in some cities since the tax was implemented in August, according to Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley real estate board reports released Wednesday.

The B.C. government has also increased by $400,000 the point at which homeowner’s can receive the basic homeowner’s grant that reduces their property taxes.

That means homeowners with houses valued up to $1.6 million will still receive the basic grant of $570.

The $400,000 jump from last year’s limit will ensure nine out of 10 homes across the province are eligible to receive a basic grant of $570, he said. The program will apply to one-in-five homes in Metro Vancouver, said B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

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