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Raised homeowners’ grant benefits half of North Shore owners

Jane Seyd, The North Shore News, Jan 16, 2017

Nearly 13,000 homeowners on the North Shore got a tax break from the provincial government last week.

That’s because the province announced it is raising the assessment threshold cut-off for the homeowners’ grant to $1.6 million of assessed value from a previous $1.2 million.

According to the data company Landcor, which analyzed BC Assessment figures, the move results in owners of 12,791 properties in North and West Vancouver who stood to lose the grant being eligible again.

Combined with approximately 21,000 homeowners whose properties are worth less than $1.2 million, the grant will benefit about half of all property owners on the North Shore – about the same as last year.

Owners of detached homes in North Vancouver – many of whom saw their assessments jump from around the $1 million mark to about $1.5 million – are likely those who will benefit the most.

Even so, a much smaller percentage of owners on the North Shore qualify for the grant than they do in other areas of the province – where greater than 90 per cent of owners qualify for the grant.

North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton said he’s pleased to see North Shore homeowners being given a fairer shake in the decision to hike the grant threshold.

But the larger question of who benefits from the grant – which costs the provincial treasury $820 million annually – is still a political hot potato.

“It’s a very political tax concession,” said Walton of the grant, which provides homeowners with $570 to $845 from the province to offset the provincial share of property taxes. “If the province changes it dramatically or removes it, obviously people aren’t going to be very happy.”

District of North Vancouver Coun. Mathew Bond, a 33-year-old who rents a basement suite with his wife and young child in North Vancouver, said he questions the purpose of the grant.

“The question I like to raise is if the purpose (of the grant) now is to reduce the costs of living in a community, is this the best and most fair way to do that?” he said. “It excludes the whole portion of the population that are renters.” For example, a single parent in North Vancouver earning $34,000 can get up to $1,000 in rental assistance from the province, while a much wealthier person making $200,000 who owns a $1.5 million home still gets $570 through the homeowner grant, and another renter earning $40,000 doesn’t get any help from the province.

Instead of a homeowner grant, Bond wonders why the province doesn’t bring in a refundable tax credit based on income that could help everyone in B.C. with housing costs. The answer, however, is likely political.