Seniors and Housing Affordability

Home  »  News  »  Seniors and Housing Affordability
Aug 16, 2017 No Comments ›› Wickson

Recently the question about property taxes and affordability for seniors came up.  This is a very important conversation as it related to not only affordability for seniors housing, but all the other economic impacts that will come into play as baby boomers like ourselves head for retirement incomes.

First of all, basic research shows us that as senior home owner I get the basic homeowner’s grant of $570 plus as a senior over age 65 I qualify for an additional $275 for a total of $845.  For some reason, the total grant amount for seniors in BC other than the CRD, GVRD and the Fraser Valley is $1,045.

Further, if you own a property with and assessed value of more than $1.6 million and you have a low adjusted net income of $32,000 or less you may qualify for a low income grant supplement for seniors. More information can be found at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/reduce/home-owner-grant/senior/low-income.

Finally, there is a deferred taxes option.  If you own your home you can defer your property taxes until you sell the property or upon your death.  So if you purchased your home 30 years ago for $100,000 and it now worth $1,000,000 this might be a good option to take advantage and access the built up capital value of your home without significantly reducing the equity.

However, this question brings up the need for a conversation about the rapid changes to housing economics that are impacting both millennials and seniors.  In Saanich, this question points to the need for greater housing diversity.  It has taken more than a few years for Saanich to accept the fact that secondary suites are not only in demand but actually help protect the single family housing supply by allowing new entrants to access the market with a “mortgage helper”.  This took years and was somewhat controversial and only was allowed south of McKenzie.  I understand that suites are allowed north of McKenzie now but only in areas where there are no existing covenants.

It is time to move forward and set the standards for “Granny Flats”, stand-alone buildings that would be suitable for students, recent graduates, seniors and others who might have disability or income challenges but want to live in single family residential neighbourhood.  Such buildings could be limited in size and occupancy numbers. Again, a property owner may find this option attractive to assist in the mortgage payments.

Conversations about affordable housing are taking place in Saanich but not in a way that includes clear social planning objectives.  We may touch on the subject when we talk about homelessness or affordability for seniors but we are not building a proper housing strategy.  There is language in the Strategic Plan about affordable housing but no specific actions.

As a Councillor, the subject of affordable housing for all would be one of my top issues.