BEPPLE – There’s a downside to the increase in our property assessments
I’M RICH. Or, more correctly, I’m richer. Like every property owner in Kamloops, I’ve seen a significant increase in the assessed value of my home. From last year to this, the value of my house increased $113,000, by just under the average of 27 per cent that properties increased in Kamloops since last year.
For Kamloops’ homeowners, increases in property values of between 20 to 35 per cent in 2021 means that we are all richer.
Well, certainly current property owners are richer, but there are others who will pay the price.
First, new home buyers are worse off. In 2022, the average price on a single family home was $619,000. A year ago, in 2021, the average price was $488,000. Back in 2012, the average single family home in Kamloops was $327,000. Over the last 10 years, prices for a single family home have increased 89 per cent.
Condos and townhouses have seen similar increases in prices. From 2021 to 2022, condos and townhouses rose 21 percent from $285,000 to $346,000.
It’s getting more and more expensive to buy a home in Kamloops. The dream of owning a home for first time buyers is getting more and more difficult.
Second, renters could feel the pinch as well. The average rent for all types of apartments in Kamloops, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is $1,079 per month. A bachelor apartment is $855. A one-bedroom is $985.
At the moment, the B.C. government has frozen rent increases from March 2020 until December 2021. With rents frozen for 21 months, rents are bound to go up in 2022.
Most of all, the increased cost of housing leaves those at the bottom further and further behind.
The housing allowance for people on income assistance or disability assistance in B.C. is $375 per month. This allowance has not increased since 2007. For 15 years, while property prices and rents have increased significantly, the housing allowance has been frozen by the provincial government at $375 per month.
So while my property value has increased 89 per cent in 10 years, people on income assistance and disability assistance have been left out in the cold.
Literally, in some cases.
Over the holidays, local press reported on a senior who died out in the cold near the end of October or early November. A frequenter of shelters in Kamloops, the senior had no permanent place to live. One of about 200 people in Kamloops who are currently unhoused.
Now, if you’re like me, having an extra $113,000 or so of personal net worth gives you a good feeling. If I was asked today if I was willing to give it back, I would be reluctant to do so, as would most of us.
But we need to connect the dots of increased costs of housing, and increased numbers of people living hard on our streets. They are connected.
House prices go up when there is more demand than supply. Rents increase as well when supply does not meet demand. Both are indications that Kamloops is a desirable place to be, with more and more people wanting to live here.
But having a paltry housing allowance of $375 per month means that it is increasingly impossible for those on income assistance or disability assistance to be housed.
Homeowners across the city have benefited from increased property values. Our good fortune should not be at the expense of those least fortunate.
It’s well overdue for the provincial government to increase the housing allowance for those at the bottom to reflect the changing costs of housing in Kamloops.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.
Many people I know started off with small houses or a trailer home and built equity and moved up. They had one vehicle or often commuted by other means. Seldom took holidays in the early years, never missed a beat at work, saved and lived frugally. Beside all that, the housing market in the present era does not follow simple economic laws of supply and demand. Cheap money and speculations are, according to some scholars, even more important factors. Also, in many European cities local governments are actively participating (that is supplying and managing) in reasonably priced rental accommodations.
I believe that Councillor Dale Bass recently made a statement to the effect “we failed him” referring to the death of a homeless man from exposure. It seems that similar thing may have happened in downtown Vernon although no details have been released.
Yet, if anyone goes to North Shore McDonald’s for a coffee and looks across Fortune Drive, the former Fortune Motel appears to have had no steps taken to be a promised accomodation for people who need shelter.
Where would the answer be for that?