This year’s property assessments are trending downward in B.C., but for homeowners forced out of a condemned subdivision on the Sunshine Coast, their latest estimates are downright heartbreaking.
According to BC Assessment, the 14 properties in the Seawatch neighbourhood of Sechelt were each worth more than $1 million in 2018, with many close to $1.2 million.
But as of July 1, 2019, the properties — which were evacuated nearly a year ago after sinkholes formed in the development — are now worth just $2 each: one dollar for the land, and another for the home.
“We’re shocked,” said Joanna Moradian as she looked over the assessment documents with her husband, Chris.
“A cup of coffee costs more than $2. This is crazy.”
The District of Sechelt issued a local state of emergency and evacuation order for the oceanside development in February 2019 over persistent and dangerous sinkholes, which began opening up the previous fall.
Homeowners were forced to pack up what they could and leave the once-valuable properties, which remain behind barricades to this day.
At the time, the province said the homeowners didn’t qualify for disaster relief, as the development was approved despite existing reports that the land was unstable.
While the temporary state of emergency remains in place through weekly reviews and renewals, the district has not yet declared that the evacuation is permanent.
But the Moradians say their latest assessment says otherwise.
“We’re not aware of any permanent closure, but we can only assume this assessment is based on some kind of information that indicates a permanent closure of some sort,” Chris said.
“What was their logic and reasoning coming up with this assessment?”
The couple has tried to get answers from BC Assessment, but did not get any response.
The Moradians, who are now staying with family in Burnaby, and other homeowners kicked out of Seawatch are now wondering if they’ll ever return home.
“If I had a garden shed sitting on my property … it would probably still be assessed at $150, $200,” Rod Goy said. “I don’t understand the rationale.
“One of the possible outcomes of this is that everything will be fixed and we’ll be going back in our homes. Obviously the assessment authority doesn’t think that.”
Goy said it’s possible the assessment could change next year if the evacuation order is lifted — but with no information from officials, it’s hard for him to take comfort in that possibility.
Even more perplexing, nearby properties within the evacuation zone that are not part of of the Seawatch development actually retained their values, which are well over $1 million.
Global News has reached out to BC Assessment for comment.
The bad news puts additional pressure on the families, who already had to get through a tough Christmas.
“We were the gathering place for our family, and we couldn’t do that this year,” Ed Pednaud said.
“We had to get away, because the Christmas spirit was just not there.”
In August, the owners of eight of the Seawatch homes — including Goy and the Moradians — filed separate lawsuits against the District of Sechelt, the province, the contractor and the developer.
The challenges will likely take years to wind their way through the legal system. None of the defendants will comment on the matter, as it’s now before the courts.
As the problems continue to mount, the homeowners say getting help is more important than ever.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” Pednaud said. “How do I fund my kids’ university? That was all planned, and now that plan has been put on hold.
“We’re trying to keep them as insulated as possible, but it’s difficult. Our kids are quite bright. They see what’s going on, and they think it’s unfair as well.”
— With files from Aaron McArthur