Vancouver mansion owners using farm credit to cut taxes
Published Thursday, December 17, 2015 4:12PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, December 17, 2015 7:17PM PST
Vancouverites have been warned property taxes are on the rise – and now some of the city’s wealthiest residents have found a way to dramatically reduce their tax bill.
Nestled along the Fraser River, palatial estates in the Southlands neighbourhood make up some of the most valuable real estate in Vancouver. Now some of the area’s mansion owners are having their property taxes cut in half by classifying their estates as farmland.
Properties larger than two acres and with an agricultural income of just $2,500 a year are eligible for farm status with BC Assessment – even if its owners live in a mega mansion.
Jennifer Maynard’s family owns Southland’s heritage farm, a working farm that includes horses, a farmer’s market, and other barnyard animals. She says the farm status of the property makes their lifestyle affordable.
“We make our living doing this,” she said. “It’s our job – I’m a farmer.”
Maynard says she doesn’t mind the area’s rapid growth and influx of millionaires, but doesn’t think it’s fair when people build “barns” to store their vintage cars.
“That’s what bothers me – it’s really cheating,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair.”
For example, one waterfront estate that used to be assessed at $6.6 million has had its property tax halved; another 2.3 acre property was assessed as a farm worth just $117,000.
City councilor Geoff Meggs says there’s not much the City of Vancouver can do about the issue.
“If they can convince B.C. Assessment authority they're farming by their standards, there's not much the City of Vancouver can do,” he said.
“The key thing from our standpoint is we do want to maintain that agricultural land base, so it may be frustrating for people who are living next door and paying a different assessment but we would prefer to maintain that hardline in protection of agricultural land.”
Yet some are concerned that the rich have found a way to plant a few crops and reap a lower tax bill.
NDP MLA David Eby told CTV News that if Vancouver millionaires are using the credit to get a break on property taxes the province should be doing something about it.
“I’m really concerned about this issue of people who are incredibly wealthy potentially taking advantage of a credit that was intended for farmers,” said Eby.
“The reason why we have this tax credit is to encourage local food development and food security in the province…it’s not to help people get a break on their property tax.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Mi-Jung Lee