Homeowner grant hike shows faulty priorities

Owners of million-dollar homes shouldn't move to the front of the line for those in need of government assistance

Thousands of B.C. families are struggling to get by, with many couples working at two minimum wage jobs just to eek out an existence at below the poverty line. The province’s homeless are coping with one of the coldest winters in years, huddled in parks and doorways hoping to keep warm. Skyrocketing daycare costs, precious few vacancies in a tight rental market, long waits for medical treatment.

There’s no shortage of hardships many British Columbians are forced to endure. But we can’t solve everyone’s problem, there’s only so much government can do.

That’s why the provincial government’s decision this week to extend financial relief to million-dollar homeowners show where its priorities lie.

This is not to say that dramatic spike in property assessments has not been a shock to the system for many B.C. homeowners. However, the rising home values hardly represent a crisis requiring Finance Minister Mike de Jong leap to spring into action before the ink on the assessments had even dried. Let’s not forget, these are the same homeowners whose homes have nearly doubled in value over the past decade, seeing their investment increase by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To help ease the pain, the province increased the threshold for the $570 homeowner grant to properties worth $1.6 million, up from $1.2 million. That $570 will cover about four days worth of payments on a million-dollar mortgage. Is that really what this government considers the best bang for its buck.

Since 2010, the value of properties eligible for the homeowner grant has risen more than 50 per cent, from $1.05 million in 2010 to $1.6 million today. This year’s increase alone represents a jump of 33 per cent. In the meantime, the province’s minimum wage has risen just six per cent since its last significant increase in 2012, while the province’s welfare rate sits at $610 a month, where it has remained since it was last increased in 2007.

Yes, rising assessments can pose a challenge. But million-dollar homeowners aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch.

 

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