March 5, 2019 10:07 pm
Updated: March 5, 2019 10:17 pm

‘We aren’t speculators’: Belcarra property owners ask B.C. government for speculation tax exemption

WATCH: Village of Belcarra asks for speculation tax exemption

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A group of property owners in Belcarra are fearful they are going to be forced to sell their cabins because of the B.C. government’s speculation tax. About 40 per cent of the homes in the Metro Vancouver community west of Coquitlam are only accessible by water, and the area has not been exempted from the tax.

Retired teacher Charline Robson was given two properties by her aunt three years ago. One lot sits empty, while the other has a summer home on it.

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The waterside cabin has been in the family since the 1950s and has no potable water access or sewer. The cabin itself is worth $15,000 while the land is worth $1.3 million.

READ MORE: B.C. tells homeowners how they can exempt themselves from the speculation tax

“We use it for summer holidays; we can’t afford to go away. Now, I am going to have to pay $10,000 to $12,000 for the two properties on top of the property tax,” Robson said. “I hope they will just drop the tax and let us go on and use it as a family.”

Robson was at the B.C. legislature on Tuesday with a plea to the government to exempt the community. Belcarra does have some year-round properties that are worth millions of dollars, while others would be a challenge to rent out, like Robson’s.

“I was in tears up in the gallery. It was awful. Really awful,” Robson said. “It would be devastating to sell it.”

WATCH (Aired Feb. 1): There are growing complaints about the lack of support for homeowners dealing with the speculation tax

The province says the goal of the tax is to target foreign and domestic speculators who own homes in B.C. but do not pay tax in the province. The B.C. government says that 99 per cent of British Columbians will not have to pay the tax.

The government also hopes the tax will turn empty homes into housing for people and raise revenue that will go to supporting affordable housing.

The speculation tax has been criticized by mayors in Kelowna, Langford and West Kelowna for hurting the local housing market. The tax was brought in as a crucial part of the B.C. government’s housing affordability plan.

WATCH (aired Jan. 16): Negative billing means B.C. homeowners could be forced to pay speculation tax, even if they are not speculating

Belcarra Mayor Neil Belenkie says the tax is devastating for his community and struggles to understand why property owners in his village have to pay the tax while Lions Bay and Bowen Island are exempt.

About 45 of Belcarra’s 300 homes have owners that will be affected by the tax. Those homes are season or weekend properties that lack road access, water and heating and are nearly impossible to rent.

Belenkie met with Finance Minister Carole James last week and was told that no exemptions are coming for Belcarra. Following the meeting, he spoke to his local MLA, Rick Glumac.

READ MORE: B.C. government to start better tracking on empty homes and rental stock as part of Speculation Tax

Glumac is a member of the NDP caucus. Belenkie says he felt threatened by Glumac’s comments, saying the MLA told him that Belcarra’s relationship with the province would become much more “difficult” if Belcarra continued to protest.

“My message to the government was that this tax is hitting people without the cash to pay it,” said Belenkie. “My constituents aren’t rich, and these cabins have no rental value. But they refused to listen and threatened to punish my community if I continued to raise concerns.”

Belenkie also cited a conversation with Glumac’s assistant that said Belcarra has been adversely affected by a tax designed to curb housing speculation and increase the availability of rental properties.

READ MORE: B.C. government to start better tracking on empty homes and rental stock as part of Speculation Tax

“(The Belcarra properties) have been referred to me by the NDP team as collateral damage,” Belenkie said. “They are not designed to have people living there full-time. They are designed for a place when the weather is appropriate for generations of people to come together, and that was the intent of these inherited cabins.”

Glumac says he never threatened the mayor and believes the tax is the right way to address the affordability crisis. He raised the example of some of the cabins in the community being rented out on an annual basis, even though they may not have heat.

“Every case is different. There are people living in cabins right now in Belcarra Park, they are renting,” Glumac said. “I think he has a great opportunity to express the concerns he is hearing through a process.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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