Every year for the last four years, owners of single family homes in Langley City have seen their municipal taxes go up, while people who own units in multifamily strata units have paid less.
A report to council by Darrin Leite, the City’s director of corporate services, estimates the average single family residential property tax went up $314 during that period while the average strata dwelling dropped $83.
Under the current single rate system, the assessed value of multifamily strata units have either decreased or increased at a slower pace than single family home assessments, which have gone up “dramatically,” the report says.
The report says the provincial government could fix that by creating different provincial tax categories for single-family houses and multiple-family strata units, something the City has already tried, without success, to convince other municipalities to support.
On Monday (Feb. 6), in response to the report, City Council decided to try again, and voted to bring the idea back to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), the body that speaks for most towns and cities in the province.
The City proposal was voted down by the UBCM at last year’s Victoria conference after the UBCM Resolutions Committee recommended against it.
A written assessment by the committee noted previous proposals along the same lines have been rejected by UBCM delegates at previous conventions in 2002, 1995 and 1988.
The committee warned “the potential impact is far-reaching and could trigger a proliferation of classes and sub-classes.”
The issue is a pressing one for the City because roughly two-thirds of its housing stock is multi-family strata units.
Mayor Ted Schaffer said since the UBCM convention, financial officers from other municipalities have expressed interest in the proposal to the City.
“Some of them want to take a second look,” Schaffer said.
Coun. Paul Albrecht voted for making another attempt at convincing other municipalities, saying, “I think this is something that we’re going to keep trying to get fixed.”
Coun. Rudy Storteboom said it was a “very worthwhile” proposal.
Coun. Jack Arnold cast the only vote against.
Arnold told the Times he opposes two categories of taxes because he believes it is unfair.
“The richer you are, the less tax you will pay (under this proposal),” Arnold said.
“I think it’s a step backward. We should have one tax rate and everyone pays it.”
Leite’s report said if the residential property class was split into two separate classes the City “could adjust the rate for the multifamily strata properties to ensure these properties contribute their proportional share of the tax increase required in any given year … sharing the tax burden more equitably.”
It estimates that approach could have meant the average multifamily strata units would see an increase of $11 or 1.39 per cent this year, while single family residential properties would go up $17 or 0.90 per cent.
Instead, multifamily strata units are seeing a $20 or 2.77 per cent drop, and single family residential properties are paying $105 or 5.34 per cent more.