Floyd Augustine was gobsmacked when BC Assessment assessed his waterfront property in Youbou at $2.1 million this year, a dramatic jump of $500,000 from the previous year.
Augustine, who is 85, bought his property, which is a little less than an acre, for approximately $4,000 60 years ago.
He said his home, where he lives with his son, is old and there has been no major work on it recently, so he has no idea how his assessment has increased so dramatically.
Augustine, who is on a fixed income, fears his property taxes this year will now increase substantially as well.
“The assessments on my property have gone wild over the past three years,” he said.
“I’m afraid I’m going to be financially squeezed out of here. It’s just awful and I’m appealing my assessment.”
Many waterfront property owners in the Youbou area are balking at the high values BC Assessment has assigned their properties this year.
According to BC Assessment, the average waterfront property in Youbou rose 28 per cent in value from last year, the highest increase in the Cowichan Valley.
These properties are now assessed at approximately an average $2,155,000 as of July 1, 2022, compared to $1,680,000 last year.
A large number of the owners, including Augustine, are now appealing their assessments through a Property Assessment Review Panel, which is appointed annually by the provincial government to hear formal complaints and is independent from BC Assessment.
Realtor Jason Anson, with eXp Realty which operates in the Cowichan Lake area, is representing Augustine and 20 other waterfront property owners in Youbou at the review panels.
He said there are some major problems with BC Assessments’ models for assessing property values.
“Youbou only had three waterfront home sales in 2022, of which I was one of the listing agents for the sale of a property on Youbou Road, and that was the last one to sell. We haven’t sold a waterfront home in almost six months since,” Anson said.
Anson said the appraisals made in Youbou show serious flaws in BC Assessments’ model because the agency is using the entire lake to compare homes sold, including mixed-commercial properties to single-family homes.
“I have already seen at this year’s hearings that the independent panel has thrown out comparables showing Youbou homes sold one kilometre away from the subject property to be switched for Lake Cowichan ones more than 12 km away,” he said.
“It’s as if B.C. Assessment is throwing darts at a wall. The numbers show they are all over the place from any standard methods in appraisals.”
Anson said most of his clients are senior citizens, with many living on a single pension income from the Canadian Pension Plan.
“Never did they think the property taxes of today would eat up their pensions, leaving them below the poverty line,” Anson said.
“Many have lost a spouse and are scared that they will be forced to sell next because they cannot maintain the growth valuations that BC Assessment is applying to their properties.”
Anson said this past year in particular, many of his clients have been pushed over the $2.1 million threshold above which they cannot apply for the home-owners grant to mitigate their taxes.
He said they are not only scared of the increased tax rate that the Cowichan Valley Regional District is projecting to be as high as 12 per cent in 2023, they will also lose the $1,000 rebate from the province to help pay their property taxes as a result of BC Assessments’ valuation.
Jodie MacLennan, BC Assessment’s deputy assessor for Vancouver Island, said each year, more than 98 per cent of property owners typically accept their property assessment without proceeding to a formal, independent review of their assessment.
“Property assessments for 2023 are the estimate of a property’s market value as of July 1, 2022, and physical condition as of Oct. 31, 2022,” she said.
“This common valuation date ensures there is an equitable property assessment base for property taxation. Some property owners did chose to submit a notice of complaint by Jan. 31 for an independent review by the Property Assessment Review Panel.”