B.C. ups homeowner grant by a third as property assessment values skyrocket

A homeowners Property Assessment Notice from Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2017. Photo By Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press.

Relief is on the way for homeowners in British Columbia facing a jump in property taxes thanks to soaring home values.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the threshold to take part in the province's homeowner grant program will increase by a third this year, to include properties with an assessed value of up to $1.6 million.

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, he added.

"We are doing our part to help keep housing costs affordable for families," de Jong said in a statement.

"The strength of the province's economy and sound fiscal management have put us in a position to raise the threshold by such a large amount this year to help homeowners."

The announcement is the latest policy response to the red hot real estate in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, despite sales having tempered in recent months.

Last year, the province introduced a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax, while the federal government clamped down on mortgage rules, making it more difficult for homebuyers to secure financing. The move comes as B.C. prepares for a provincial election, with voters scheduled to head to the polls on May 9.

Last week, the province's finance ministry said it was looking to increase the $1.2-million limit to the homeowners grant after property assessments jumped by as much as 50 per cent for some single-family homes in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

The program is expected to cost the province an extra $12 million compared to last year. The province reimburses municipalities for decreased revenues resulting from the homeowners grant so municipal coffers are not affected by the change.

In 2010, the homeowners grant applied to homes assessed at a little over a million dollars. That threshold rose to a high of nearly $1.3 million in 2013 and back down to $1.2 million in 2016 before catapulting to $1.6 million this year.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the homeowner grant program will apply to one-in-five homes in Metro Vancouver.

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