B.C. homeowner near SkyTrain station has 70% property tax jump

A man who lives near Lougheed Mall says his property tax has gone from $5,800 to $9,394 in one year due to his proximity to the SkyTrain.

Steve McCulloch has lived in his current home for eight years, and a few blocks away for the previous 10 years.

“I got my, assessment last year. It was high,” he said. “I got my tax bill last year for the municipality. It was crazy. It went up about 70 per cent. They say my assessment is on the potential of the future development in this neighbourhood here.”

Under Section 19.8 of the Assessment Act, if the property is a principal residence and the owner has lived there for at least 10 years then there is a grandfather clause that exempts the homeowner from the potential of the neighbourhood.

However, McCulloch has only lived there for eight years.

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He told Global News he is fighting back against the cost but is not getting anywhere.

“Five months of my company pension goes to paying property tax,” he said. “Just property tax.”

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McCulloch said he has reached out to the offices of Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, and MLA Selina Robinson and has not heard back.

His case did go to an appeal panel through B.C. Assessment and the mediator said McCulloch’s case did have some good points but ultimately he did not win.

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“The comparatives are stuff that’s 1.8 kilometres away from me,” McCulloch said. “And the only comparatives they had was stuff that sold in this neighbourhood this year. Assessments are supposed to go by July of the previous year. And there was nothing sold till this year on this site here.”

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Paul Sullivan, property tax agent with Ryan Tax Firm in Vancouver, said this is going to be something that everyone should note.

“This new legislation came about after the permissive use stated on last year’s assessment role,” he said. “So, it’s in play now for the 2025 assessment role. And we’re going to see what B.C. Assessment wants to do with that. I mean, we’re doubling the density of the commercial corridors where we’re putting in duplex, tri-plex, six-plex in single-family neighbourhoods and it only takes one sale to make a market.

“So, that sale will probably occur in most neighbourhoods and then we’re going to start to have some serious increase in taxes.”

Sullivan said he is also concerned for local independent businesses.

“I think this blanket up-zoning is going to cause significant value changes and tax changes will come thereafter,” he said.

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Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said that there shouldn’t be a huge spike in taxes because so much land is being up-zoned at once that the lift should not be that significant.

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“It’s important for people to know that if your property assessment goes up it doesn’t necessarily mean that your property taxes go at the same rate,” he said. “That being said, we have seen clearly demonstrated to us in the research that small-scale multi-unit zoning, when done in a broad way, has very minimal impacts on people’s property assessment, unlike doing it in specific zones or specific areas.”

Kahlon said the government chose to use this method because they need to increase the housing supply and spread it evenly across all communities “and not (focus) specifically in one neighbourhood or one part of our communities.”

He said the government will continue to monitor the situation but he does not expect it will have a massive impact on zoning a specific property in a specific neighbourhood.

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Sullivan said time will tell.

“I think you’re going to see developers go in and buy properties based on that redevelopment potential,” he said. “And it’s a little bit how we tax people – that one sale dictates the value for all similar properties.”

He said they have already seen a spike in tax deferment in the past five years, from $800 million to $1.6 billion in value.

“That means the government owns $1.6 billion of homeowners’ equity in British Columbia because they can’t afford to pay the taxes,” Sullivan added.

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McCulloch said he is not giving up yet but his story should be a warning for others.

“I was unsuspecting of this when I moved here,” he said.

“And, it’s going to impact everybody within the 800 metres of any SkyTrain station. So buyer beware.”

McCulloch said he knows he is fortunate to be a homeowner in Metro Vancouver but he’s very frustrated by the situation.

“It’s not right the government takes away from my life’s earnings,” he said.

“They haven’t got the right to do that on potential, and that’s the key operative word – potential. If it was reality, different story. If I could sell today, a different story. But they’re saying they admit it might be 10 years before something like this happens in this neighbourhood.”

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