B.C. government not saying if Home Owner Grant qualifications will change

Metro Vancouver says property tax system antiquated

For many Lower Mainland homeowners, whether the Home Owner Grant changes next year is a $570 question.

B.C. Assessment sent out notices to 90,000 homeowners earlier this month, warning them their property values would be rising sharply compared to others in their area, and that they should expect increases of 30 to 50 per cent for many single family homes.

However, it's still unknown whether the threshold for the Home Owner Grant will be raised from $1.2 million.

"A lot of the communities and the people in the communities are somewhat concerned. So we thought we would get something off to the minister, and see if there's some way he can review this situation," said Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, who has contacted Finance Minister Mike De Jong.

The grant allows homeowners to reduce their property taxes up to $570, or $770 if it's in an urban or rural area, if the assessed value of their principal residence is under $1.2 million, subject to qualifications.

But the assessed value of many homes in Metro Vancouver will likely rise above that in January— including in Tsawwassen, Delta's wealthiest neighbourhood, where the benchmark price of a detached home is now $1.22 million, up 23.1 per cent in the past 12 months.

Government announced the 2016 hike in January

In 2012, de Jong set the threshold for the grant at $1.285 million, making about 95.5 per cent of homeowners eligible for the full amount of the grant.

He then cut it to $1.1 million in 2014 in order to help the province balance its budget., but raised it to $1.2 million on Jan. 5, 2016, a day after full assessment figures for the year were released.

In a statement, the Ministry of Finance said it was reviewing the program as part of its annual budget process.

"We won't speculate as to what the outcome of this analysis and the minister's decision about the threshold will be," a spokesperson wrote.

However, UBC accounting professor Kin Lo believes the government is likely to raise it.

"Being in an election year, and the province running a surplus, the chances are a bit higher, given those two factors," he said.

"Given the circumstances, it's higher than otherwise that they will look at moving this up."

​Homeowners must apply for the grant each year to be eligible. More details are on the government's website.

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