Comment: Property tax idea from a B.C. senior

I am a low-income senior living on payments from the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security programs. Every year at this time, I must pay my biggest bill of all, my property taxes.

I live in a modest, older bungalow which matches my income and lifestyle.

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After 33 years, my house assessment has dropped by half, but my lot assessment has leaped from $55,000 to $1.2 million even though the lot has not changed. In other words, almost all of the property tax I struggle to pay is due to speculative inflation.

Luckily I, like many of the current flood of retiring baby boomers, qualify for Property Tax Deferment.

Property tax deferment is available to B.C. homeowners who are 55 years or older, a surviving spouse, or eligible persons with disabilities and for homeowners who financially support a dependent child.

When you defer annual property taxes, the province charges interest on the tax deferment loan. The loan rate is 1.2 per cent for the regular program and 3.2 per cent for the families with children.

Deferred taxes and interest are paid when the home is sold or transferred.

PTD has kept me out of the clutches of the reverse-mortgage loan sharks.

Unfortunately the PTD is just a Band-Aid solution rather than part of any cure to the underlying problems.

In California, Proposition 13 has made a difference.

A big component to Proposition 13 was the idea that older Californians should not be priced out of their homes through high taxes.

Enacted in 1978, it decreased property taxes by assessing values at their 1976 value and restricted annual increases of assessed value of property to an inflation factor, not to be more than two per cent per year. It also prohibited reassessment of a new base year value, except if ownership changed or there had been new construction.

There is a built-in fairness to this cure. Why should residents who have paid taxes for 30 or 40 years to keep a town desirable, pay as much current tax as new owners wanting to take advantage of that desirability?

Come on B.C., enough already with Band-Aids such as PTD and secondary suites. We need a permanent cure.

Steve Bowker describes himself as a “senior” who lives in Oak Bay

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