Despite soaring land values, the vast majority of homeowners in the Greater Victoria region will still be eligible for the 2018 homeowner grant this year, as the provincial government has increased the threshold for the grant to $1.65 million.
According to the provincial Ministry of Finance, that threshold means about 97 per cent of homeowners in the region will be eligible, about the same number as were eligible last year.
In the wake of B.C. Assessment releasing property assessment notices showing significant increases in value in some areas of the province, the ministry acted to increase the threshold from $1.6 million last year and $1.2 million in 2016.
The homeowner grants are expected to return an estimated $825 million to more than two million property owners this year. Any property owner with a home valued under $1.65 million will be eligible for a $570 basic homeowner grant.
Across the province, the increase to the threshold means 91 per cent of property owners will be able to claim the grant, which is in line with the percentage last year.
In order to claim the grant, a home must be the owner’s principal residence.
The basic grant is $570. It rises to $770 if the home is in a northern or rural area, and $845 for homeowners who are 65 years or older, or the homeowner is a person with a disability. That increases to $1,045 for homeowners who are 65 years or older or have a disability if the home is in a northern or rural area.
The province reimburses municipalities for the full cost of the grants.
According to the ministry, the province took the step to increase the grant as the value of real estate has climbed steadily over the last few years.
On Vancouver Island, a lack of housing inventory and increased demand meant the majority of homeowners saw an increase in their property assessments of between 10 and 25 per cent compared to last year.
This year, the hardest-hit segment of homeowners appears to be condo and townhome owners, who can expect increases of between 15 and 35 per cent.
Assessment notices show the estimate of a property’s market value as of July 1, 2017, and its physical condition as of Oct. 31, 2017. The value is set based on factors including nearby sales, size, age, quality, condition, view and location.
Homeowners who disagree with the assessment are asked to contact B.C. Assessment. An appeal process exists if the disagreement can’t be worked out. A notice of complaint has to be submitted by Jan. 31, which triggers an independent review.
Tina Ireland, B.C. Assessment’s assessor for Greater Victoria, said despite significant increases in assessed value, the appeal rate remains low. “Over the last 10 years, the appeal rate has been less than two per cent, and over the last two years, it’s been closer to one per cent.”