SHERBROOKE – Premier Tim Houston announced changes to the new non-resident property tax during the State of the Province address on May 3.
The changes include varying the tax for non-residents according to the value of the property assessment, benefitting owners of smaller properties like small cottages. Properties will be exempt from the tax on the first $150,000 of assessment.
The tax will be 0.5 per cent on the value between $150,000 and $250,000 and two per cent on the value above $250,000.
The new deed transfer tax, also part of the spring budget, will proceed without changes.
“We are listening to the feedback we have received and believe that these changes reflect some of the concerns raised by non-resident property owners,” said Allan MacMaster, Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, in the government’s news release about the change Tuesday.
Like most of their municipal counterparts across the province, Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s council has received a great deal of negative feedback when it comes to original plan for the new non-resident property tax introduced in last month’s provincial budget.
Unveiled by Minister MacMaster as a way to help deal with a continuing affordable housing crisis, it had become a lightning rod for criticism, particularly from rural municipalities where plenty of seasonal properties will be affected.
The original $2 per $100 of assessment on out-of-province homeowners could have – in some cases – tripled their annual tax bills.
When the issue came up during St. Mary’s committee of the whole meeting on April 27, councillors didn’t mince words.
“I think it is ridiculous,” District 4 Councillor Beulah Malloy said.
She noted a recent conversation she had with a part-time resident of the municipality from Ontario, who is carrying out ongoing renovations on her property. Such an increase in her tax bill has made her future in St. Mary’s an uncertain one.
“People are talking about leaving,” District 7 Councillor Everett G. Baker said.
Warden Greg Wier indicated that the municipality had been receiving “quite a few” complaints about the provincial move.
Council’s committee of the whole voted unanimously for a recommendation to send a letter of concern to the province, one that Baker stressed should be “strongly worded.”
Representatives of the Eastern Mainland Housing Authority (EMHA), including Director Shawn Luker, made a presentation to council’s committee of the whole. While providing an outline of what the provincial body does, they offered a detailed description of areas – such as eligibility and application process – for the affordable housing option.
Warden Wier described the presentation as “very informative.”
“I didn’t know how it works, but now I know.”
EMHA has one 20-unit complex in St. Mary’s – Maple Manor in Sherbrooke.
Moment of silence
At the opening of the committee of the whole meeting, council observed a moment of silence in honour of municipal staff member Aaron Hubley, who passed away on April 17.
Describing him as a “valued municipal employee,” Warden Wier commended the 23-year-old for his “hard work and dedication.”
“He will be greatly missed.”
Council will meet as a committee of the whole on Wednesday, May 4, while its next regular monthly meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 9.