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District of Squamish councillor wants BC Assessment process overhauled

Click to play video: 'Squamish councillor accuses BC Assessment of undervaluing commercial properties'
Squamish councillor accuses BC Assessment of undervaluing commercial properties
A Squamish councillor is calling out BC Assessment, saying it consistently undervalues commercial real estate, forcing homeowners to pay more. Cassidy Mosconi reports – Feb 19, 2024

A District of Squamish councillor wants to submit a resolution to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association asking the B.C. government to overhaul the way properties are assessed in the province.

According to John French, large industrial and commercial properties are being under-assessed and undervalued in the region annually, meaning their owners pay less tax than they ought to and someone else has to fill in the budget shortfall.

“That means regular, everyday folks are paying more in property tax,” French said. “Anytime a taxpayer is paying less than they should, it means others are paying more to make up the difference.”

Click to play video: 'BIV: High-end retailers returning to Vancouver'
BIV: High-end retailers returning to Vancouver

According to Derek Holloway, who used to work for BC Assessment, one example is a pair of properties on Glenalder Place that were assessed at $11.6 million and sold for $22.1 million in 2022, after an assessment of $13.3 million.

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In 2023, they were assessed at $15.9 million. This year, that decreased to $15.5 million.

“This sort of thing shouldn’t be happening but it’s happening more and more around the province,” he told Global News.

“(BC Assessment) is working within the constraints of their legislation and they would like to do a better job, but they’re stretched beyond belief.”

Click to play video: 'BC Assessment on why property value has levelled off'
BC Assessment on why property value has levelled off

Global News reached out to BC Assessment but did not hear back by deadline.

“They need to update the Assessment Act. It’s notoriously referred to as a patchwork piece of legislation that is not effective any longer and changes are needed,” Holloway said.

The District of Squamish’s mayor and council are set to vote Tuesday on a motion to submit a resolution to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association to consider at its annual general meeting.

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That resolution, as it’s currently written, states that the Assessment Act has “no meaningful consequences for withholding information” that BC Assessment needs, resulting in “taxation rates based on flawed assessment/valuation data.” It states that similar, unsold properties are “consistently under-assessed, sometimes for consecutive years,” and the B.C. government should update the legislation.

Click to play video: 'Slight shift in assessed value of Okanagan homes'
Slight shift in assessed value of Okanagan homes

“In addition, maybe they’re not using all of the technology tools that they could be to come up with more accurate assessments then what we’re seeing now,” said French, who is putting the motion forward.

“It for sure is not isolated to Squamish,” he added. “Prince George, Prince Rupert, Port Alberni — from Kaslo to Kamloops to Kelowna — there are examples all over the province of where these under assessments are impacting taxation.”

The Lower Mainland Local Government Association’s annual general meeting takes place in Whistler at the beginning of May.

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— with files from Elizabeth McSheffrey

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