22 APRIL 2010
Fredericton: Green Party leader Jack MacDougall revealed today that property tax issues are going to be an important piece of that party’s election platform.
“This form of taxation is unjust in many ways. While we recognize it the primary source of revenue for municipalities, this cannot excuse its basic unfairness.”
With property tax bills arriving in people’s mailboxes last year, the problem of soaring assessments unconnected to any property improvements is receiving a lot of public attention. MacDougall says the process of assessment has to change.
“The widow in St. Stephen who lives in a family home built in 1920 should not be penalized for the fact that a new subdivision is building up around her. The gentleman in Saint John with a 1990s bungalow should not see the value of his house double just because of the energy hub hype of politicians,” said MacDougall. People in fishing communities living in homes built by their forefathers and with no intention of selling should not be penalized because wealthy city dwellers are moving to the coast and building high priced vacation homes.”
The problem, says MacDougall, is that property assessments are pegged to the real estate market, not the construction value and improvements of the actual home and property. “This means that a homeowner has no control over the value of one’s own property. It is completely dictated by others, often speculators. The Green Party would decouple property values from the real estate market.”
“Part of the problem we have with a deteriorating environment is that land and family homes are not treated as a part of our community but as a commercial commodity. This makes it harder and harder for families to hold onto land and people on fixed incomes to hold onto homes. It isn’t real estate until it is sold. Until someone sells their home or makes significant improvements to it, their property assessment should remain the same. Once it is sold, its selling price should constitute the tax assessment that the new owner would pay taxes on.”
The other change in property taxes MacDougall wants to see is in the way rental properties are taxed. They are considered non-residential property and therefore are taxed at a higher rate than principle residences. “The fact is,” says MacDougall, “it is a principle residence for multiple families or individuals. That higher tax rate is passed on to tenants by the landlord, even though this is the principle residence. New Brunswick is the only province in the Maritimes with this system. The Green Party would change this.”
MacDougall said these tax changes will require other legislative changes. First, the matter of how municipalities can generate revenue is a long-standing problem which must be addressed. Second, landlords have to be made to pass the tax savings on to their tenants.
“These are details that can be worked out. The first priority is to get fairness back into the property tax system. The Green Party is committed to that.”