B.C. government raises homeowner grant threshold to $1.65 million

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      The province is promising that this year, the same percentage of British Columbian homes will qualify for the homeowner grant as in 2017.

      That's because the threshold has been raised to $1.65 million.

      That's up from $1.6 million last year and $1.2 million the year before.

      There's a basic $570 homeowner grant to help offset property taxes. It rises to $770 for those living in the north or in a rural area.

      Those over 65 years old or who have a disability can receive up to $845. That can increase to $1,045 for those over 65 or with a disability who live in a rural or northern area.

      The homeowner-grant program will cost the province $825 million this year.

      This news comes on the same day that the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has revealed that the benchmark price for all residential properties is over $1 million in its jurisdiction. One Vancouver homeowner, billionaire Chip Wilson, had his Point Grey mansion assessed at $78.8 million this year.

      Finance Minister Carole James didn't include a $400 renters' grant in her September budget update.

      Could tenants be left in the lurch?

      During the last election campaign, the B.C. NDP promised a $400 grant to every tenant in the province.

      That measure was heavily criticized by then B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark.

      It was never introduced when interim B.C. Liberal Leader, Rich Coleman, was the minister responsible for housing, though he did support a  rent-supplement program for 21,000 low-income tenants.

      The provincial Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program provides cash to about 17,000 people over the age of 60 who rent units in the private housing market.

      Since the NDP formed a minority government, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver has also declared that he opposes a grant for all renters, which would cost the provincial treasury about $250 million per year.

      Weaver has argued that this money could be better spent on other programs.

      The B.C. Green leader represents the wealthy constituency of Oak Bay-Gordon Head, which is mostly made up of homeowners.

      A 2006 census profile showed that only 27 percent of the residents in Weaver's constituency were tenants, which was lower than the provincial average and far lower than the percentage of tenants in Vancouver.

      Given the razor-thin standings in the legislature with 41 New Democrats, three Greens, and 41 B.C. Liberals (not counting the speaker), it remains to be seen if Finance Minister Carole James will be able to win approval for a renters' grant.

      James didn't include a renters' grant in her September budget statement, but promised that this rebate will be offered in the future.