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The provincial government announced Tuesday that residents who own a home worth up to $2.125 million will be eligible this year for the Home Owner Grant, an increase of 7.6 per cent from the 2022 home price cap of $1.975 million.
Introduced in 1957, the grant program offers homeowners in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Greater Victoria an annual $570 credit against their property tax. Homeowners in northern or rural parts of the province (anywhere outside the three aforementioned areas) are eligible for $770.
Seniors, people with disabilities, or veterans are eligible for additional grants: up to $845 in urban areas, or $1,045 in rural areas.
Homes worth above the limit are still eligible for tapering funding, which reduces by $5 for each $1,000 above the threshold. People who own homes worth up to $2.239 million in Metro Vancouver will be eligible for some portion of the grant.
Landlords, corporate owners, people with multiple homes, or owners who are not permanent residents or citizens of Canada are not eligible for the grant.
According to the B.C. government, the annual increase in eligibility ensures the grant continues to cover 92 per cent of properties.
The most recent figures available from the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) estimate that the average price of a home for sale in B.C. was $906,785, increasing to $1,201,186 for Greater Vancouver. The new upper limit on homeowner grants is therefore more than double the cost of an average home in the province.
The cost of homes has seen large increases in recent years, which has been reflected in the government’s annual eligibility increases. The upper limit for home owner grants was $1.525 million in 2020, which increased by 6.6 per cent to $1.625 million in 2021.
In 2022, the limit jumped to $1.975 million, an increase of 21.5 per cent. Provincially, average home sale prices rose by 18.7 per cent, according to the BCREA.
The Home Owner Grant costs the province considerably more than it currently spends on tackling homelessness. The 2022 budget earmarked $170 million to “begin implementation of enhanced and expanded responses to homelessness,” and $633 million over three years for “providing services and supports for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.” That’s around a quarter of the amount being spent on home owner grants, which is approximately $2.5 billion over three years.
“The Home Owner Grant program benefits homeowners, who on average have higher incomes and wealth than renters. The program does not have an income test,” noted the 2021 budget.
In 2018, a government-appointed task force recommended that the grant be abolished and replaced with an income-tested programme.
It is “a regressive feature of the tax system that is also fundamentally unfair and would be improved by using the income system to provide more progressive tax relief to homeowners and renters,” the report summarized.
Mo Amir, host of This is Vancolour podcast, argued in December that the province should scrap the program. “Why are we spending hundreds of millions of provincial tax dollars every year to give generally wealthier British Columbians a break on their municipal taxes, when we could just reduce provincial taxes more equitably?”
Renters currently do not receive any kind of annual credit. Although former Premier John Horgan first promised a $400 annual renter rebate in 2017, it has failed to materialize in the years since.
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon told CBC last month that the renter rebate was “definitely still on the table.”