City of Vancouver forgoes $219 million from $53.7-billion tax-exempt properties, including its own

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      A total of $53.7 billion worth of properties in Vancouver were not subject to taxation last year.

      More than half of the value of these properties is owned by no less than the City of Vancouver.

      The assets are exempt from property taxes by virtue of law and acts of council, a staff report explains.

      According to Grace Cheng, director for long-term financial strategy and planning with the city, the value of the exempt properties represents 11 percent of the 2018 property assessment roll.

      Cheng wrote in an information report to council that the exemption means forgone taxes of $219.8 million in 2018.

      City of Vancouver properties exempt from taxation have a combined value of $29.3 billion, according to Cheng’s report.

      The value of city properties represents more than 54 percent of the total worth of exempt properties.

      Non-city properties exempt from taxation have a total value of $24.2 billion.

      These include crown lands as well as properties owned by charities, churches, schools, and hospitals.

      Based on Cheng’s report, properties used for schools, colleges and universities have a value of $9.9 billion.

      Lands by hospitals and health authorities come in next at $3.6 billion, and provincial properties, $3.4 billion.

      Cheng explained that while federal and provincial governments are “constitutionally exempt from property taxes”, they make certain payments to local governments “in lieu of property taxes on certain exempt properties”.

      Cheng wrote that a total of $35.1 million of “compensating payments-in-lieu of taxes” in 2018 were payable to Vancouver.

      In addition to statutory exemptions specified in the Vancouver Charter and the Canadian Constitution Act, which do not require action by council, there other exemptions that council can make.

      These are called permissive exemptions, which council does at its discretion, according to Cheng.

      Covered under these permissive exemptions are 20 heritage properties.

      Cheng also wrote in her report that properties designated as supportive housing are “assessed at a nominal value and effectively exempt from property taxes”.

      “In 2018, 108 properties in Vancouver were designated as Supportive Housing and paid no taxes,” Cheng stated. “This represents additional financial subsidies from the City above and beyond the capital funding and land already committed to the development of supportive housing, as any forgone tax revenue is borne by all taxpayers.”