Canadian homeowners face big property tax increases

As Toronto homeowners prepare for one of the largest property tax increases in recent memory, many other cities are grappling with similar issues. Several major cities have approved or proposed major property tax increases this year as municipalities struggle with inflation, high interest rates, crumbling infrastructure and growing demand for services.

In Montreal, property taxes will rise almost 5 per cent this year, the largest increase in 13 years. In Vancouver, property taxes are 7.5 per cent, following a 10.7 per cent increase last year. While Halifax will see an increase of almost 10 per cent.

“I did not create this financial disaster,” said Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, referring to the city’s $1.8 billion budget deficit. “But it needs to be fixed.”

Toronto’s budget includes a 10.5 per cent increase in property taxes, which Chow warns could jump to 16.5 per cent if the federal government doesn’t come up with $250 million to support the recent influx of refugees. For months, Chow has been calling on Ottawa to provide more money for shelter seekers, who currently make up almost half of the city’s shelter residents.

“It’s a really difficult time,” says Sasha Tsenkova, a planning professor at the University of Calgary, who says all municipalities are feeling the pressure, but adds that there seems to be little sympathy for landlords in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver. , where home ownership is increasingly unattainable for many people.

“Property taxes are rising in line with exponential increases in home prices,” he says. “This is a solid accumulation of capital and there comes a time when you have to give something back to the city.”

But in a time of rising mortgage rates, inflation and high costs of living, adding another increase is a challenge for many.

“As business owners and homeowners, we’re already paying a lot of taxes,” says Helen Reis, owner of a flower shop in Toronto’s West End. “They (taxes) should decrease instead of increase.”

For years, city council has kept Toronto’s property tax at or near the rate of inflation, despite persistent warnings from staff about a growing budget deficit. If approved, Toronto property taxes would remain comparatively lower than many other municipalities.

Still, a nearly 17 percent increase is a tough pill to swallow for many homeowners. And while Chow maintains it’s a necessary increase to fix problems she didn’t cause, CTV political commentator Scott Reid says she’ll be blamed for it.

“The bottom line is the mayor is saying ‘this is the only option,'” Reid says. “I don’t think voters are going to blame Justin Trudeau, or Doug Ford, or Rob Ford, or John Tory, or anyone except the person responsible for raising their taxes, and that’s Olivia Chow.”

Reid says it would have been politically more prudent for Chow to raise taxes slowly and pressure Ottawa to step in and help.

“With the federal election pending, she had influence over MPs in the 416 (area code),” he says. “(But she) made the mistake of thinking she could ask people to pay 16.5 percent more in taxes and blame someone else.”

For years, Toronto politicians have argued there should be federal funding specifically for Toronto, which is larger than some provinces but doesn’t have the same revenue tools.

If Ottawa is going to pitch in to help this budget cycle, Councilor Shelley Carroll said the funding commitment needs to come in by Jan. 26 to be included in this year’s budget.

“I’m optimistic… the federal government will do something,” Chow said.

Leave a Comment