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Cowichan Lake property owners face steep assessment increases

Some assessments for properties on the lake have spiked by up to 40 per cent — far above the average 10 to 20 per cent hike on the Island.

Some homeowners along the shores of Cowichan Lake are challenging property assessments that have spiked by up to 40 per cent — far above the average 10 to 20 per cent hike on the Island.

Floyd Augustine, 85, still lives in the Youbou home he bought for $4,000 in 1960 — it’s where he raised his family, supporting them by working at the now-closed mill.

The one-storey house with two bedrooms and one bathroom on a narrow 0.75 of an acre lot that borders Cowichan Lake is assessed at $2.136 million, up 40 per cent from the previous year, when it was assessed at $1.527 million.

Augustine figures an assessment of $1.3 million or $1.4 million is more realistic.

Property taxes are only affected when changes in assessed value are above or below the average change in a community, which means Augustine could be facing much higher property taxes.

Augustine lives on a fixed income and said his pension does not keep up with cost-of-living increases. If his property taxes rise substantially, he said: “You have to reassess your life and see if you can still live in it [the house] with that amount of taxes.”

Nearby, Dr. Peter Leckie, who is retired and lives in an old cookhouse on his lakefront lot, says his property was assessed at $915,000 in 2020 but since then — with no improvements — the assessment has increased to close to $2.7 million, a change he called “ridiculous.”

The most recent assessment represents a 36 per cent hike from the previous year, which means he, too, is expecting higher taxes.

He successfully appealed his assessed value at a hearing last month. He is waiting for formal confirmation but believes the value was reduced by about $80,000, which he called a “small improvement.”

In the community of Youbou on Cowichan Lake, where Augustine lives, assessments for the average property rose by 28 per cent to $2.155 million this year (based on the value in July 2022) from $1.68 million (based on July 2021 value).

Homeowners in the Town of Lake Cowichan, Honeymoon Bay and Mesachie Lake all saw increases of more than 20 per cent on average.

Real estate agent Jason Anson is representing a group of 23 homeowners, mainly on the Youbou waterfront, who are fighting their assessments.

An additional six owners in the area have successfully convinced a property assessment review panel to roll back some of the increases this year, he said.

Unlike assessments, prices in the area are not up 28 per cent, and only four houses were sold in 2022 on the Youbou waterfront, for an average price of $1.5 million, Anson said.

Anson said after he spoke to the property assessment review panel on behalf of the group of 23, the bulk of the properties in the group appeal were moved up to the next level, the property assessment appeal board.

The appeal board takes on cases that are not immediately resolved and may be more complex, according to B.C. Assessment.

Anson takes issue with B.C. Assessment’s valuations, saying some sold properties that should be included for comparison values were not included in the latest assessments, while others that were sold in 2021 should not be used but were considered.

As well, some data about sold properties is not available on the corporation’s website and should be, he said.

Jodie MacLennan, deputy assessor for Vancouver Island, said the market has taken a downward turn since last July, noting assessments, which were sent out in early January, reflect a property’s value as of July 1, 2022 and its physical condition as of Oct. 31, 2022.

Changes in values reflect recent sales in the area, plus factors such as age, size, quality, condition, view and location of a property, says the Crown corporation.

MacLennan said 98 per cent of property owners do not appeal assessed values.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has not yet sent out property tax notices, but an 11 per cent average increase is expected, said a regional district official.

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