Every year, when property tax increases loom, we hear from a lot of seniors who are on fixed incomes and are worried or angry about rising property taxes. I appreciate that it’s alarming to be faced with soaring costs when you have no way to increase your income. But I’d like to provide some perspective.
Most seniors bought their first homes many years ago, when housing was far more affordable than now. Those home owners enjoyed the benefits of services like water and fire protection, and paid very low property taxes for them. Now that local government has to repair and replace that infrastructure, those of us who are older should pay our share, and not leave the burden to younger generations.
Over the last 20 years my property taxes and utilities went up 152% (that’s before any 2023 increase, so let’s say worst case 175%). In the same period of time my property assessment rose 658%. So while I am paying more taxes, I have a much larger fixed asset that I can fall back on, if necessary. Because I own my property free and clear, my options include a line of credit, tax deferment, or a reverse mortgage.
One of the things that makes property tax so stressful is that many people pay it on an annual basis. I can tell you that I wouldn’t own a smart phone if I’d had to shell out $2,000 up front for the phone and a year of cell service. Property taxes and utility bills can be paid by installment and I strongly recommend this, to avoid the shock of very large payments in June and July.
I appreciate that many seniors budgeted for their retirement based on yesterday’s prices, not realizing that property taxes had been unrealistically low for decades, and having no way to foresee other ballooning costs, such as insurance. However, young people are squeezed even more severely by soaring costs, and not just real estate. When I enrolled in Capilano College, tuition fees were $7 per credit hour. Capilano University now charges $141 per credit hour—that’s 20 times what I paid. Incomes have not grown at the same rate as costs for education or housing, resulting in record levels of Canadian household debt.
And renters are between a rock and a hard place, but that’s a whole other story.
Property owners 55 or over can apply for property tax deferment. People with disabilities may also qualify, and there is a limited program for families with children.
Rural property taxes can be paid by installment through eTaxBC.
Utilities can be paid in installments by credit card, post-dated cheque or automatic bank withdrawals. Contact the SCRD.
Reverse mortgages used to be a lousy deal, but the available products have improved substantially. The Canadian government provides reliable information about reverse mortgages, including pros and cons.
Updated 20 Feb, 2023