Monday, June 17, 2019

Vancouver architect says the wealthy are cashing in on property tax deferment

The provincial government has loaned out more than $822 million as part of a program that helps seniors and families pay their property taxes.

But there are questions about whether some are cashing in on ultra-low interest rates, and whether the program is effective housing policy.

Under B.C.’s property tax deferment program, owners over the age of 55, who have a deceased spouse or are a person with disabilities, can defer their taxes; the province pays them instead, and owners are charged an interest rate of 0.7 per cent.

People who don’t meet those criteria but have children or are under financial hardship can also apply for the program, but pay an interest rate of 2.7 per cent.

Almost $168 million of the money loaned out so far was for taxes due in the last financial year.

Vancouver architect and real estate consultant Michael Geller argues the program amounts to a low interest loan, and that for many seniors facing financial hardship it can be a lifeline.

But he said some seniors, including himself, who don’t actually need the program are making use of it to access rock bottom interest rates.

“One of them said she didn’t want to because she thought it was wrong that the city would have to struggle without the payment, until I pointed out the city gets the money. It’s getting it from the provincial government.”

CKNW has reached out to the ministry of finance and ministry of housing for comment.

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