Why are my property taxes so low?

This might be a little naïve, but I have to ask – why is increasing property taxes never very seriously considered in the Lower Mainland as a way to both raise badly-needed revenues and calm property values? I just got my 2016 property tax bill emailed to me and, after the provincial home owner grant is applied, my total bill for the year came to $484.17.
 
When I punch in my property value on the City of Toronto’s property tax calculator, it comes up with $2,290.95. This means I’m literally paying just over one fifth of what I would pay on a similarly-priced property in Toronto.
 
Compare to cities closer to Vancouver’s size by population (603,502): in Winnipeg (population 663,617) I would pay $3,901.51, in Brampton (population 523,911) it’d be $3,679.92, and in Hamilton (population 519,949) I’d pay $4,564. Even in tax-averse Alberta, property taxes in Edmonton (population 812,201) on a property of the same value as mine would be $2,641.32. If we want to compare to other “big cities” (ignoring municipality size), Montreal’s taxes (taking Outremont as an example) are comparable to Toronto’s, yielding around $2,438.70 on a property value equal to my condo in Vancouver.
 
Despite that, and despite a lot of hype about a 2.3% increase to 2016 property taxes, in fact our property tax rates have gone down every year for the last several. This is especially remarkable given that the biggest rate cuts are for funds allocated to TransLink and the school boards, both of which are experiencing severe budget crises.
 
Given that property values are in part derived on assumptions of expected future cash flows, and adding cash outflows to that equation would (should) naturally drive down prices, that’s all the more argument for increasing, not decreasing our taxes.
 
We could literally double (or quadruple, for that matter) our property taxes in this city and achieve so much more while hurting virtually no one (sorry, but I have no sympathy for the people sitting on million-dollar homes that claim they can’t afford a few hundred dollars more for property taxes).  When I look at the disparity between my laughably-low property tax bill and the inability of the city, TransLink, and the school boards to pay for anything, the solution to me seems obvious. I’m disappointed in the lack of willingness on the part of our politicians to do something about it.
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3 responses to this post.

  1. And as a side note, to all those people who insist we should disproportionately tax non-Canadian property owners – we do. The Home Owner Grant, which is part of the reason my taxes are so absurdly low, requires that I certify the following:

    I am an owner of the property identified on this application form (“this Property”) that is assessed and taxed for the current year;
    I am a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, I ordinarily reside in British Columbia and I occupy as my principal residence the whole or part of the building(s) located on this Property;
    Neither I nor my spouse nor the deceased owner have applied for or received a home owner grant on this Property or any other property in the Province during this calendar year and, to the best of my knowledge, no other person has received a home owner grant on this Property during this calendar year.

    Reply

  2. It’s not too meaningful to compare property tax levels between cities as a multiple of property value. The total amount of tax that a city needs has nothing to do with property values, but rather depends on the costs of schools, roads, garbage collection, etc. For example, if the housing market in Vancouver were to collapse, halving its value overnight, your property taxes would stay the same. The city would simply double the mill rate.

    Reply

    • Total amount of revenues to the city, perhaps. My point was merely that Vancouverites can easily afford a substantial increase in property taxes – and that the things paid for by property tax are generally hugely underfunded, so I can’t see why there have not been increases.

      Reply

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