A few months back the VREB added some proper maps of all their trading areas, replacing the old images that were too small to read and only showed down to the level of the municipalities. It’s a great improvement, however the maps only have a few hundred views, so I think they are too hidden on the VREB site.
Given how often the topic comes up here, I figured it would be a useful reference to have embedded on the site in one place, starting with the sub-areas in the the VREB trading area (Greater Victoria plus the Malahat and Gulf Islands).
is tyranny. But what about taxation with excessive representation? After all with 13 municipalities and the CRD we can’t argue there isn’t enough representation going on here, but how much is it all costing us in taxes? Thanks to open data initiatives, we can see which municipalities have kept a lid on tax increases and which ones have let loose the dogs of bureaucracy.
Assuming you lived in a representative house in each of the municipalities from 2006 to 2016, how much would your taxes have increased?
The winner by a mile is North Saanich where taxes haven’t even kept up with inflation. Of the core municipalities, Esquimalt has done the best job keeping tax increases moderate while the big loser is Saanich with a 56% jump in 10 years. All of them hiked taxes and fees much faster than inflation over the last decade.
Here are the 2016 values for all the municipalities.
What are the real costs to run a house? Well there are many sites out there that will let you estimate this but often they vary widely. Instead of an estimate, here is exactly what it cost to run our bog standard 70s Gordon Head box in 2016. It’s about 2100 square feet with 2 adults and 2 kids upstairs, and 1 adult in the basement suite. Primary heat is via heat pump, secondary gas furnace, 2 gas fireplaces, and a couple baseboards in the basement. Double pane vinyl windows, 2×4 construction, and extra insulation in the attic.
On the maintenance side we actually had some expenses this year. As luck would have it our furnace broke, the washing machine self destructed, and the hot water tank had to be replaced all at once around Christmas. That made up the majority of the increase over two years ago when I last published one of these posts and it cost us $6743 for utilities, tax, and insurance, and another $1500 or so in maintenance.
How about last year?
Surprisingly enough despite inflation, an extra baby in the house, and a month and a half of charging the electric car our utility costs are only up 2% since 2 years ago, thanks mostly to the cheaper gas. Insurance was about the same for less coverage (I dialed up the deductibles) and property taxes are up 12%.
All in all to keep the house livable cost us about $920 per month. While it seemed like quite a few things broke at once this year, there weren’t really any extraordinary maintenance expenses. When big things like the roof or furnace need replacing those costs could go up significantly and need to be taken into account.
Isn’t it nice when you can get one government to pay the other government’s taxes?
Most people know about the option to defer your property taxes if you are over 55 in BC. That program is more or less a no brainer (shockingly, only 2.5% of BC’s seniors take advantage of this). Why pay several thousand dollars a year in taxes when you can borrow the money essentially for free and then stick your heirs with the bill? It works like this:
- Apply for the deferral before your taxes are due (one time $60 fee).
- When approved, the province will pay your municipal taxes on your behalf, charging you 0.7% simple interest on the loan.
- They put a restrictive lien on your house which means you have to pay the balance of the loan when you sell.
- Every year you apply to renew the deferral.
Easy peasy. Apply here.
But what if you’re one of those rare people in Victoria not over 55 years old? Well turns out you can also avoid those pesky taxes as long as you have kids.
We here in Greater Victoria have the… unique pleasure of not actually living in one contiguous city, but in one of 13 different municipalities. This has the great benefit of every region reinventing the wheel and not working together. One of the main ways that all this hand wringing is funded is through property taxes. Some municipalities like Saanich and Victoria are fairly open with this data, while others like Oak Bay think it’s improper to discuss these kinds of financial matters with plebes present and don’t post it on their websites.
However I recently stumbled on the DataBC website, and one of the resources it has are all the municipal tax rates in BC. Given that outside of the mortgage itself and perhaps maintenance, property taxes are one of the biggest expenses of home ownership, it’s worth looking at how the different regions compare. I’ve extracted out our little corner of the province and here it is.
From a rate perspective, Esquimalt residents will pay the highest tax rate, but due to the high property values in Oak Bay the total bill on a representative house will be highest there. Keep in mind that most people will also receive at least the basic homeowner grant which takes off $570 from these numbers. The exemption was recently raised to $1.2 million from $800k.