Northeast property assessments: Chetwynd sees significant increases in 2011
By Matthew Bains
NORTHEAST – Property owners in the Northeast began receiving their assessment notices in the mail from the BC Assessment Authority (BCAA), and average property values in the region appear to have climbed in most areas.
The 2011 assessments are the estimate of a property’s market value as of July 1, 2010, and are used by local governments and other taxing authorities to determine tax rates. Changes in property assessments reflect movement in the local real estate market and can vary greatly from property to property.
Average residential property values increased at least slightly in all municipalities in the region, but the most notable increase was experienced in Chetwynd, which has a total roll valued at $165,544,100 in 2011 compared to $137,570,100 in 2010, an increase of 20 per cent. That was the third highest increase in the province behind Fort St. James and Mackenzie.
Scott Sitter, deputy assessor with the BCAA in their Dawson Creek office, said it’s not a coincidence those increases were experienced in resource-dependent communities.
“I would suggest where we see some of those resource-based industries come back online, it’s definitely being reflected in the market,” he said.
He added most of the increase in Chetwynd is due to a rebound and a return to values in the housing market before 2009, when mill closures and mine curtailments caused uncertainty in the local economy and property values declined. In 2011, the value of commercial properties in the town increased by eight per cent.
Ellen Calliou, economic development coordinator for the District of Chetwynd, confirmed the town saw a mix of residential and industrial development in 2010, with new construction permits increasing to 54 in 2010 from 26 in 2009. That included $1.8 million in residential construction, $2.8 in commercial and $850,000 in industrial.
Calliou said while the economic activity is positive, it also emphasizes the need for additional housing units to accommodate population growth. She said last year there were only eight units ready to be occupied in the town.
With the rebound of the mills, the expansion at the nearby coalmines and the potential expansion of the Dokie Wind Project, she expects property values will continue to rise in the district.
Elsewhere in the region, Dawson Creek had a moderate increase of five per cent while Fort St. John’s was slightly higher.
“Although the assessed value of residential properties in Fort St. John has increased on average by 7.38%, and commercial properties by .69%, property owners will not necessarily see an equivalent increase in their property taxes,” noted Laura Sanders, director of finance for the City of Fort St. John.
With the exception of Tumbler Ridge and Taylor, which saw slight decreases, municipalities in the Northeast saw increases in commercial property values. The largest increases are in Pouce Coupe (17 per cent), Hudson’s Hope (17 per cent) and the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (11 per cent). Sitter said those increases reflect both market and non-market (new construction or property rezoning) changes, and include properties such as schools and municipal buildings that are exempt from taxes.
He added that oil and gas activity has much to do with property values holding steady or increasing over the last few years.
“The last few years, where much of the province had decreased, we kind of held our own and in some cases continued to increase,” he said. “I think that is reflective of the oil and gas activity.”
Also, for the first time in British Columbia’s history, the value of all real estate on the annual provincial assessment roll has surpassed $1 trillion, which represents an increase of eight per cent over the 2010 roll total value of $970 billion.
“It’s definitely a sign that our real estate market is still fairly strong and stable,” said Sitter, although he qualified that by saying there have only been a few years when the total roll actually decreased from the previous year since 1974, when the Assessment Authority was established.
Property owners can access more information online at: www.bcassessment.ca, where they can also compare their assessments to nearby properties. The Peace River Assessment Office is located at 1112 103rd Avenue in Dawson Creek and can be reached at 782- 8515 or toll-free at 1-800-990-1160, between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Anyone who still has concerns after speaking to an appraiser can appeal their assessment by submitting a Notice of Complaint by Jan. 31 for an independent review by a Property Assessment Review Panel, which will meet between Feb.1 and March 15 to hear formal complaints.
Also, the provincial government has increased the threshold for the full homeowner grant to cover homes valued up to $1.15 million in 2011, from $1.05 million in 2010. Ninety-five per cent of homeowners will be eligible to receive a reduction in residential property taxes of up to $570, and an additional grant of $275 may be available if the homeowner is 65 or over, permanently disabled or eligible to receive certain war-veteran allowances.
Homeowners living outside of the Capital, Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts are eligible to receive up to $200 more under the Northern and Rural Area Homeowner Benefit, which takes effect in 2011. To be eligible, homeowners must meet the requirements to receive the basic or additional homeowner grants, but the new benefit will be included with property tax notices in the spring and eligible homeowners will not need to apply separately.
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