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Rents are too high


The analysis is correct, but the solution is all wrong:

Currently, tax assessments are capped at the rate of inflation for all residential properties, except for large multi-unit dwellings.

"Every other type is covered under this assessment cap . . . homes and co-op housing and mobile homes and condominiums," Liberal MLA Diana Whalen, who introduced the Assessment Act amendment, said Friday. "But if you live in an apartment, a multi-unit building, the owner of that building is not protected from the big increases in assessments."

And that filters down to the tenants, who for the most part live on lower incomes than those who live in houses and condominiums, Ms. Whalen said. "The majority of people in apartments are going to be younger or older, and so (are) more vulnerable."

An apartment complex is a business, competing (ultimately, in the search for capital and access to financing) with hot dog stands, car companies and start-up alternate energy firms. Giving apartment owners a tax break (in our case, that means mostly giving two big national firms a tax break) skews the market in ways that are unfair to other businesses.

While tax rates can be skewed in a geographic sense in ways that don't serve desired social policy--- it's cheaper to own an apartment building out in Spryfield than on the peninsula---taxes do serve other useful purposes: they encourage builders to build more densely and more energy efficiently.

But those issues aside, there is a better way to address the real issue of property taxes being passed on to renters: do it directly. Back in the 1980s, when I lived in California, all renters received a renters rebate cheque every year from the government. The premise was that renters were paying a disproportionately high rate of property taxes and should therefor be given some relief.

The cheques went directly to the renter, not some multinational real estate investment trust.

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