Friday, December 18, 2009

Is it a fee or is it a tax ?

The 2010 City of Port Moody Fees and Charges bylaw includes a fee ($97 annual) for homeowners who are renting out their dwellings, privately. If you follow council meetings, you will know that I opposed this. Why ? Because I don't feel that this is anything more than a 'hidden' tax, and a cash grab.

I asked for anyone to justify to me why the city would feel the need to collect this fee . Is it because we have some costs associated dealing with renters as opposed to owners ? Apparantly not. The report presented to council on this issue made reference to this fee funding its own collection and providing $ 50,000 in revenue to the city, which would help make up for budget shortfalls. Not for affordable housing, not for service enhancements for rental properties, and not for any service presently being provided .. but to prop up 'general revenues' rather than increase property taxes 'across the board'. $ 50,000 added to the overall taxation budget would represent about 0.20% tax increase, or more simply, if you divided that across 11,000 tax properties, an average of under $ 5 per tax bill. Instead, a lucky FEW will be facing a $ 97 fee or the equivalent of close to an additional 2% tax increase !

So we are going to charge a fee to anyone who rents out their house,townhouse, condo, or other property (residential properties only). If you have ever owned a rental property you will know that you already get hit just about every time you turn around. You are not eligible for the homeowner grant unless you live at the property. You have to declare your rental income, as income, but can only claim the INTEREST on your mortgage as an expense. Even if you want to VOTE, you have to go to city hall and fill in forms and jump through hoops. Not to mention the joys of dealing with tenant leases, evictions, repairs, etc. Rental housing isn't the way people get rich, or certainly, not in my experience !

So , as a city, we are piling on yet another burden to the rental property owner , despite the fact that we are constantly being reminded about the housing affordability crisis in our town, and seeing rental housing - which is generally the bulk of 'affordable' housing, being eroded.

Is it fair ? I don't think it is... and I'm surprised I seem to be alone on this one on council ! I voted against the fees and charges bylaw because it includes this fee. There are other fees that also need to be reviewed - some were adjusted in the 2010 fees and I am happy that we have agreed to embark on that process through the finance committee in the new year. However, I simply could not support adding this NEW fee, which I feel is unfair !

Let me know if you disagree, I would love to hear why I'm wrong ! !