The number of seniors in B.C. taking advantage of property tax deferrals continues to rise at a rapid rate.
According to the Monitoring Senior Services program report for 2018, 57,305 seniors deferred their property tax in 2017, an increase of 21 per cent, or 13,179 new users compared to the year before. The Property Tax Deferment Program allows people over the age of 55 to defer payment of their municipal property taxes at a nominal rate of interest until their property is sold. Overall, the number of deferrals has increased by 55 per cent in four years, and more than 20 per cent in the past year.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said she doesn’t see the increase as a bad thing, considering that 81 per cent of seniors in the province own their own homes. “With the values of homes increasing so much, the debt created by deferring the property tax is a small amount,” Mackenzie said in an interview with the News Gazette. Interest rates on deferred amounts, which have been as low as 0.7 per cent in recent years, are at 1.5 per cent as of Oct. 1, 2018, and rise or fall accordingly as interest rates are adjusted. “I would rather see seniors take advantage of the deferrals than going without. I’m not sure you should be allowed to defer at age 55. The advantage should be focused on seniors whose housing costs are rising faster than their income.”
Mackenzie would also like to see the existing infrastructure currently in place for property tax deferments utilized to include other services seniors rely on.
“I’ve recommended that the government look into that in the past,” she said. “Having similar deferments would be helpful.” She cited a 25 per cent increase in BC Hydro rates as an example of where existing infrastructure could be put to similar use to ease the burden on seniors.
The number of seniors accessing rent subsidies through the Shelter Aid for Renters (SAFER) program increased by seven per cent in 2018 with 22,956 seniors receiving the supplement.
For a comprehensive look at the complete report, which covers a wide range of subjects, visitseniorsadvocatebc.ca/monitoringreport2018.