New property tax complicates retirement plans for seasonal NS residents

Some people who live in Nova Scotia seasonally say they are considering selling their home in the province because of a new property tax.

the non-resident property tax was included in the provincial Progressive Conservative budget released last week. It charges $2 per $100 of assessed value to “non-resident” homeowners — those who primarily live elsewhere — and went into effect Friday.

The tax was billed as a measure to improve the availability of housing in Nova Scotia, and PCs expect it will generate approximately $65.5 million in revenue to help fund programs aimed at addressing the pressing needs of the province’s growing population, including health care and education.

Vivian Lyons, who is from Virginia, expects her property tax bill to triple this year, totaling around $27,000. She and her husband own a home in Kingsburg, located on the south shore of Nova Scotia, where they live for about six months a year.

Lyons called the new tax a confiscation and said she doubted it would solve the problem it was created to address. She said about half of her neighbors in Kingsburg are seasonal residents.

“Real estate is simply a game of supply and demand and the supply in Nova Scotia just doesn’t meet the demand,” said Lyons, who was a real estate agent for 30 years. “Taxing rural dwellers will not encourage construction in urban areas.”

10:00Reaction to New Rules for Out-of-Province Nova Scotia Homeowners

Non-residents who own property in Nova Scotia must now pay higher property taxes and deed transfer fees. Hear from an HRM real estate agent and an Ontario resident who owns a cottage in Chester. 10:00

The provincial government said there are about 27,000 properties owned by non-residents in the province.

A Department of Finance spokesperson said there was a housing shortage in Nova Scotia and residential properties owned by non-residents were found across the province.

Vivian Lyons and her husband, Stephen Lyons, pose for a photo with their granddaughter at their property in Kingsburg, Nova Scotia, where they have lived seasonally since 2017. The couple vacationed in Nova Scotia in 2003 and found out “within hours”. was where they wanted to retire. A few days later, they buy the land where they will build their house in 2008. (Submitted by Vivian Lyons)

Bob Camozzi, who owns a home in Cape George in Antigonish County, said uncapped property assessments, which effectively drive a premium on property for non-residents, are already working well to balance the market in areas rural.

“People will never be happy with a surcharge or a tax,” said Camozzi, who lives in Oshawa, Ont., but usually spends May through October in Nova Scotia. “But we pay them because we know they are needed for local services that benefit our neighbors and friends.”

Like Lyons, Camozzi expects his tax bill to triple, to around $12,000. He said he understood the government needed revenue, but the decision to raise taxes on seasonal residents would only turn people away.

Community links

He said seasonal residents of Cape George have strong community ties and contribute greatly to the local community by volunteering and supporting local businesses.

“I would say 55 to 60 percent of what I will call non-residents were actually born and raised in Antigonish County,” Camozzi said.

“It’s not some kind of ultra-rich community where you just buy these places and go there once or twice a year. These are people who come to spend a lot of time.”

Bob Camozzi and his wife, Michelle Meraw, pose for a photo at their property in Cape George, Nova Scotia, where they typically live from May through October. Camozzi said land stewardship is an important part of their life in the coastal community. (Submitted by Bob Camozzi)

Camozzi said selling his property would be a “last resort” as he and his wife have spoken of one day living there permanently and possibly passing it on to their children.

Nicola Hubbard said she and her husband were considering selling their house in Chester. She expects $18,000 more on her tax bill this year.

“We intended to spend a good part of each retirement year [there], to leave it to our daughter who said to herself: ‘Oh, I’m going to get married there. It would be a nice place,” Hubbard said. “None of this seems possible anymore.

Impact on tourism, local economies

Hubbard said the new tax ignores the contributions seasonal residents make to the community.

“When you have people there for months, you’re already collecting a lot of HST,” said Hubbard, who grew up in Nova Scotia and now lives in Texas as a dual citizen.

She added that friends often come to visit during the summer months and she expects that if seasonal residents start selling their homes, it will have a big impact on tourism in the province.

“I have three or four people from Texas who want to come visit Nova Scotia,” she said. “Believe me, they don’t come to Nova Scotia if they can’t visit us.”

Hubbard said she hopes the tax will be amended to include exemptions for Canadian citizens to encourage people not to cut ties with the province.

The Department of Finance spokesperson said non-residents are subject to numerous taxes and charges such as fuel taxes and HST.

“Individuals will have the opportunity to voice their concerns when the bill passes before legislative changes,” the spokesperson said.

Penny D. Jackson