Council votes for 0.5 percent property tax increase to help Vancouver address the overdose epidemic

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      City council has approved a controversial increase to property taxes where the additional income will be used to fund Vancouver’s response to the fentanyl crisis.

      The increase of 0.5 percent was added to the city’s annual budget for 2017 just days before it went to council. That document already stipulated an increase was on the way. With the additional bump related to the drug problem, property owners will see taxes rise by 3.9 percent this year.

      Three councillors belonging to the opposition Non-Partisan Association voted against the measure. They were overruled by the seven Vision Vancouver councillors plus the lone Green party member.

      During the first 10 months of 2016, 622 people in B.C. died of an illicit-drug overdose. That’s up from 510 in 2015 and 370 the year before. Fentanyl has been detected in about 60 percent of deaths this year.

      Month-to-month numbers dipped last summer, prompting authorities to suggest the situation was improving. But in September, deaths increased from 49 the previous month to 57, and then to 63 in October. Although statistics for November have not yet been realized, authorities have signaled that the recent increase in deaths is expected to continue.

      According to a message posted on Twitter by the mayor’s chief of staff, the additional 0.5 percent increase on property taxes amounts to an extra $11 a year for owners of a single-family home, $4 for condo owners, and $19 for people who own an average commercial property.

      The city estimates it will raise approximately $3.5 million with the tax.