Vision Vancouver keeping NPA property tax shift

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      Vancouver residential property owners are in for a big squeeze next year.

      Not only will they be paying additional taxes in 2011, they’ll also have to absorb a portion of levies on commercial properties. That’s because the Vision Vancouver–controlled council is set to maintain a policy made by the previous Non-Partisan Association administration to shift taxes from nonresidential to residential properties.

      Additionally, utility fees on water, garbage, and sewer services will be increasing next year.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson wants to limit the increase in property taxes to two percent. But according to him, this can only be done if the projected $20-million gap in the 2011 budget is plugged.

      Coun. David Cadman of the Coalition of Progressive Electors, who has been a consistent opponent of the shifting of taxes from business to residential properties, explained the tax dynamics at play.

      “There’s a desire to have a two-percent tax increase because they’re going to transfer money from the commercial, industrial sector to the residential sector,” Cadman told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “So the residents are going to end up paying four percent. In order to meet the tax shift, we have to keep the increase to two percent. Otherwise, the shift onto the residential would be much higher.”

      The end result is putting public services on the chopping block.

      “Unfortunately, the consequence of that is going to be that we’re going to have to go through and figure out how to cut services,” Cadman said. “And I think at a time like this, citizens are looking towards their libraries, their community centres, their recreational options as things they want to do. And I think we cannot continue to have the residents pay a four-percent tax increase while businesses will only pay a one-percent tax increase.”

      A staff report on the proposed $1-billion city budget stated that 2011 will be the fourth year of the tax shift since the redistribution policy was adopted by the NPA–dominated council in March 2008.

      The shift seeks to transfer a total of $23.8 million in taxes from nonresidential properties to residential ones over a period of five years.

      The same report also mentioned the anticipated utility-fee increases for 2011. For water, single-family dwellings might see their annual flat fee increase from $417 to $471. Solid-waste bills could rise by $9 for each homeowner. A single-family dwelling’s bill for sewer services could increase from $227 to $245.

      “We’re effectively hitting people, and ultimately I would say that that hurts the small businesses more because people then don’t make as many purchases,” Cadman said. “The other piece of that, of course, is”¦with the HST [harmonized sales tax] sitting out there, people are really being hesitant about making purchases because there’s an additional 12 percent on top of the purchase.”

      Vision Vancouver’s Raymond Louie, who is the chair of the council committee on city services and budgets, defended the tax shift.

      “The prevailing majority is that this is part of a standing policy and that it’s necessary due to the economic circumstances,” Louie told the Straight in a phone interview. “We do want to continue to make sure that our businesses, our small businesses, survive in this tough economic time. Given that they have been suffering for the past couple of years, it’s thought to be prudent to continue.”

      The shift has the support of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

      “Commercial property owners pay right now 4.4 times more on the same value of a property that a residential would pay,” DVBIA executive director Charles Gauthier told the Straight in a phone interview. “So what we’re looking for is not that we pay the same amount but that the ratio be three-to-one versus 4.4-to-one.”

      Think City, a civic-policy think tank, has a different perspective.

      “The property-tax shift is a regressive policy,” Think City chair Neil Monckton told the Straight in a phone interview. “It doesn’t deal with the core issues, and we think that Vision needs to rethink it and not continue with it.”

      City hall is holding a series of public consultations on the 2011 budget; go to and look under What’s New for more information.




      Oct 21, 2010 at 8:56am

      No more fucking taxes.

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      Oct 21, 2010 at 10:26am

      OK all you regulars out there, and you know who you are, I wanna hear you guys unload on Mayor Gregor for engaging in this clear conspiracy with Vancouver's business community to once again screw the little guy.

      Don't be shy now.

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      Oct 21, 2010 at 10:29am

      <i>“Commercial property owners pay right now 4.4 times more on the same value of a property that a residential would pay,”</i>

      Commercial property owners are also allowed to, um, conduct commerce and generate income with their properties. Grant that right to everyone and then you'd have a coherent argument.

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      Oct 21, 2010 at 12:48pm

      When talking taxation in Vancouver, <a href=" always worth bringing the inconvenient facts for the anti-tax lobby</a>:

      <i>"However, among the 35 major cities it surveyed with populations of more than two million, Vancouver had the fourth lowest overall tax burden..."</i>

      The top 3 were in Puerto Rico and Mexico.

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      Taxpayers R Us

      Oct 21, 2010 at 4:04pm

      Didn't the anti-HST movement teach the politicians anything?

      WE ARE OVER-FUCKING TAXED AS IT IS!!! Can't you overpaid leeches in government figure out how to rub two nickels together and generate some income of your own?

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      Oct 22, 2010 at 6:50am

      Spartikus is right to point out the absurd arguments of the Business lobby for the ongoing (more than a decade) reapportioning of taxation from businesses to homeowners. If the taxpayer subsidized DVBIA (yes the government allows them to gouge businesses within their geographic area to pay for their right-wing propaganda -- like most "anti-taxation" groups, they don't seem to want to let go of their own taxes) thinks taxation is too high in Vancouver, why the hell don't they move to New West, Surrey or Port Moody? I'll tell you why: because they are the beneficiaries of generations of taxpayer largess! Does Port Moody have a huge central art gallery, a Stanley Park, Aquarium, theatres, opera, large library, universities, colleges, sports facilities, specialized medical facilities. Of course not, and all these attractions, which draw millions of people per month to the centre of the city are taxpayer financed. These people drop money into the lap of the DVBIA's members.

      A taxpayer financed trumpet for right wing municipal politics, Gautier's ideas are ridiculous, a measure of the shallowness of our business classes. Geniuses like Gautier are the reason the North American economy is in the pits.

      As the primary private companies benefiting from taxpayers' money of course they should pay a disproportionate piece of the tax bill. Of course, they could always re-locate to Port Moody or Surrey, any time they want. Good Riddance!

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      Peter F

      Oct 22, 2010 at 1:30pm

      Oh and I am to feel sorry for the Residential property tax payers in Vancouver. Sitting in their $781,000 averaged assessed home paying a whole $1,600 into the City of Vancouver General Levy. This averages to about $133.33 per month. I bet the majority of these homes have Cable and internet at $100 per month.

      What does the Resident get for that use? General Government, Police, Fire, garbage, water and sewer, parks, community centres, bike lanes and road work.

      It is a pittance compared to the payment on the loan to buy the house in the first place.

      The fact is the what residence to get for their taxes is the right to vote for the council to manage it. Even though commercial tax payers pay approximately 50% of the General Levy they have no say. So it makes sense for them to lobby for fairness and equity. Taxation with out representation is simply wrong. The current shift was a result of a multi-interest commission conducted by a U of T professor. It was the findings of the commission that the NPA and now Vision is supporting, not some trumped up partisan decision.

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      Oct 22, 2010 at 2:27pm

      In fact, Vision has kept many of the NPA's policies in place, including EcoDensity, despite Vision lashing out about these very policies during the last election campaign. The difference is that at least the NPA didn't waste all their time on just bike lanes and chickens.

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