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Changes to Home Owner Grant hits 18,000 in B.C. 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Roger Moussalli first noticed this year's change to the Home Owner Grant - which allows most urban homeowners to take up to $570 off their property taxes - last week when he got his bill.

Roger Moussalli first noticed this year's change to the Home Owner Grant - which allows most urban homeowners to take up to $570 off their property taxes - last week when he got his bill.

What's being called a "sneaky tax" by a Burnaby resident could add hundreds of dollars to the property tax bills of 18,000 B.C. homes - above and beyond the standard assessment increases.

Roger Moussalli first noticed this year's change to the Home Owner Grant - which allows most urban homeowners to take up to $570 off their property taxes - last week when he got his bill. Last year, all homeowners with a property value under $1.295 million were eligible for the tax break.

But this year, government has reduced that threshold to $1.1 million. That means a good chunk of B.C. homeowners who didn't have to pay the extra fee in 2013 will now be feeling its bite. "For me, it's $160 more than the property tax already was," Moussalli, a 70-year-old pensioner, said Wednesday.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the ceiling, or threshold to qualify for the grant had steadily increased from 2010 to 2013 - rising from $1.05 million to last year's $1.295 million.

This year's change brought the number back to pre-2011 levels, though the ministry points out the ceiling did not increase between 2008 and 2010.

"The change ... affects approximately 18,000 or roughly 1.5%, of the more than 1.1 million homeowners who may be eligible for the grant," the ministry said, adding government will save $11 million. "Over 93% of home owners in B.C. may qualify for the grant."

Moussalli said there's at least one other person on his street who was affected.

"Nowadays for property in Vancouver to be assessed more than $1.1 million - it's just about every property," he said. "We need a break."

The ministry added there are programs such as tax deferral options and the Low Income Grant Supplement Program to help with the costs.

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