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Big backyards blamed in Saanich home value spikes

Homeowners have until Feb. 2 to protest latest B.C. Assessment property assessments
The assessed value of Myrtle Lockhart’s Burnside property in the 3200-block of Albion Rd. increased by $61

Neighbours along a Burnside-area street are bracing for steep property tax bills after their property assessments jumped by tens of thousands of dollars this year.

Myrtle Lockhart, who lives in the 3200-block of Albion Rd., said the value for her 102-year-old house spiked $61,000 this year, a 12 per cent jump from her $502,000 assessment in 2014.

“We’re going to be hammered with a tax increase and I’m not going to take it sitting down,” said Lockhart, who lost her husband Bruce to cancer just two months ago. Lockhart said neighbours along the entire street have seen similar increases to mostly their land values, but the reasons behind those increases have left Lockhart confused.

“If all of Saanich had gone up, maybe I could understand that, but (it looks like) they’ve picked a certain area and slammed the hell out of it. When I call B.C. Assessment, I get a lot of answers that I don’t understand,” she said.

Capital Region assessor Reuben Danakody said the rising value of a deep lot, such as Lockhart’s, is a natural market correction in a land-locked region.

“The availability of quarter-acre lots within city limits is becoming scarce,” he said. “You see reconfigurations of lots close to downtown because land value is so high, and that’s driven by the market place.”

Burnside isn’t the only pocket too see a localized spike in pricing. Mike Weirmier, in the 4200-block of Cedar Hill Rd. in Gordon Head told Saanich News his assessment spiked $100,000 this year to $660,000 ($61,000 for his 14,700 sq. ft. lot and $39,000 for his home).

And Paul Cooper’s 21,000 sq. ft. lot on 2628 Arbutus Rd. in Cadboro Bay went up $76,000, while his house actually decreased by $3,000.

Weirmier, Cooper and Lockhart are all considering filing protests through B.C. Assessment, but they must do so before Feb. 2 or accept the increases.

“I’ve filed a protest before,” Cooper said. “But it’s the significant rise to my property while others on my street aren’t seeing the same thing that I want an answer for.”

Lockhart and her late husband used every inch of their quarter-acre lot on Albion Road to raise their five children, and they have several exterior structures on the 15,000 sq. ft. lot.

That generation of Lockhart kids has grown up and moved away, and now it’s her eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren who regularly make use of the space when they’re visiting (one grandkid lives in the house as well).

Tear-downs and rebuilds are simply too safe of an investment among dense urban properties, where multi-unit housing usually offers better returns, said developer Ed Geric of Mike Geric Construction.

“The problem we have in Saanich is the availability of raw land,” said Geric, whose team builds single-family residential as well as high-density homes in Saanich.

“But for the most part we can’t tear down five homes on 10,000 sq. ft. lots and convert that to 10 homes on 5,000 sq. ft. lots because Saanich homes are still too new and expensive. They’re just not old enough.”

A report released this week by Demographia International Housing Affordability confirmed what most South Island homeowners already know: Greater Victoria is the second-least affordable housing market in Canada behind Vancouver, suggesting large yards will continue to vanish within Saanich’s urban containment boundary.

Lockhart’s house is in the vicinity of a planned high-density hub at Tillicum and Burnside under Saanich’s Official Community Plan.

That means Tillicum area residents should expect densification and rising land values, said Brandon Foreman, a real estate agent with Newport Realty and Christie’s International who sells properties in the area.

“(Burnside and Tillicum are) at that point where, if you want your privacy (based on lot size), you’ll have to spend more money to get it,” Foreman said. “Will it be gentrified and become a sought after location? Absolutely. It happened in James Bay, and it’s happening in Quadra Villlage. But it’s still long term, same as any real estate.”

Geric Construction’s focus is now on the five-building Travino condo development next to Royal Oak middle school, but Geric said he’s still happy to build single family homes with yards as well.

“The trend now is smaller lots. Don’t forget, we’re surrounded by water. We don’t have the sprawling land like Calgary and Edmonton, we have to densify either by going with smaller lots, duplexes or condos,” he said.

Danakody recommends all concerned homeowners exercise their right to protest the B.C. Assessment appraisal through a third-party review. The deadline is Feb. 2.