Editorial: Put tax grab to good use

When municipal politicians gather for conferences, the resolutions for debate often seem earnest but unrealistic. However, the directors of the Comox Valley Regional District have come up with one that all British Columbians should support.

The resolution to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention asks the provincial government to redistribute the $2 billion it collects every year through the hated property-transfer tax. Instead of going into general revenues, the money would be spread to local governments to help create affordable housing.

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Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps called the resolution “brilliant.” And indeed it is.

Anyone who has bought a home in B.C. has likely fumed at the tax grab, which is one per cent on the first $200,000 of fair-market value and two per cent on the portion from $200,000 to $2 million.

Those in a more rarefied level of home ownership will shell out an additional three per cent on the portion greater than $2 million, plus two per cent on the portion greater than $3 million.

According to the government, that equates to $11,000 on a house worth $650,000 and $143,000 on a home worth $4.5 million.

Homebuyers know what they get for the fees they pay their lawyers and real estate agents. But what do they get for the property-transfer tax? Nothing but the satisfaction of contributing to health care, education, parks and everything else they already support with other taxes.

The transfer tax, which was created in 1987 as a speculation tax when people were flipping houses, was meant to apply to only the most expensive five per cent of homes. Now it applies to almost every home, and governments have become addicted to the money.

Putting the funds into affordable housing would at least give homebuyers the satisfaction of knowing they were being ripped off for a good cause.

But realistically, is any government going to give up a cash cow that brings in twice as much as it gets from energy, metals and minerals? Fat chance.

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