News / Vancouver

'A stupid waste of money': B.C. homeowner grant under fire as government increases threshold

The subsidy 'coddles' homeowners, says UBC prof

Critics of B.C.'s homeowner grant say the program subsidizes homeowners while doing little for renters.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro Order this photo

Critics of B.C.'s homeowner grant say the program subsidizes homeowners while doing little for renters.

The B.C. government is raising the homeowner grant threshold slightly, by $50,000, to ensure the same percentage of homes would qualify for the program this year as last year. But critics say the new NDP government is making a mistake.

Homeowners whose property is worth up to $1.65 million can save $570 – or up to $845 for seniors or those who are disabled – on their property taxes this year. Some experts criticize the program for propping up high real estate prices in Metro Vancouver that are far beyond what the average resident can afford.

UBC professor Tom Davidoff, who admits he benefits from the homeowner grant, called the program a “stupid waste of money.”

“I don’t mean to be insensitive, but by and large, we need to make this an economy where it is easier to live and work and less coddled to be a homeowner,” he told Metro.

“Anything you do to enhance the homeowner grant goes in the wrong direction.”

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The now-elected BC NDP did run on a campaign promise to give renters an annual $400 grant, but that program has yet to be introduced.

Davidoff, who teaches at UBC's Sauder School of Business, says that while giving a lumpsum to renters would be “appropriate,” it still wouldn’t do enough to level the playing field. Instead, he says the provincial government should use the $825 million it costs to fund the homeowner grant program to cut income and sales tax.

But he acknowledged cutting any subsidy to homeowners is a risky political move. Another local analyst, Jens Von Bergmann, characterized the ongoing homeowner grant program as symbolic of the government's priorities.

"The government [is] taking action to protect a handful of high-value homeowners from tax obligations...where so many don't have the privilege to pay property taxes on homes worth well over $1 million," he said.

With files from Jen St. Denis

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