Part-time residents applaud property tax cancellation

ST. MARY’S — If Guysborough County non-resident homeowners are breaking the bank this summer, it may be to pay for home improvements, not new taxes, thanks to a stunning shift in provincial policy last week.

Less than a month after levying an additional $2 per $100 of assessed value on seasonal homes for people who don’t live year-round in Nova Scotia, the government has rolled back measures that would have doubled or tripled the annual taxes of certain owners.

Amid growing outcry from non-resident landlords and housing advocates, Premier Tim Houston announced the reversal during a 30-minute question and answer session with the media following a cabinet meeting in Halifax. May 5.

“When I ran for prime minister I promised I would be a solutionist and that word means something to me,” he said. “It means having the humility to recognize that when you do something wrong, you learn from those mistakes and do better. That’s why I’m here to tell you today that we’re not moving forward. with non-resident property tax Our province’s reputation is more important than any policy, and it is certainly more important than my personal pride.

Houston, however, retained the 5% transfer tax on purchase prices or assessed values ​​— whichever is greater — on local properties owned by people whose primary residences are outside of Houston. Province.

“The deed transfer will remain, but the property tax itself will not apply,” he said. “Nova Scotia is a welcoming province and I want that message to be heard loud and clear.

The message was, indeed, music to the ears of non-resident property owners in the municipal districts of St. Mary’s and Guysborough, two of whom told the Journal that they now plan to invest money in their seasonal gaps this summer.

“The money I should have given to taxes, I can now spend at home in Nova Scotia,” said Lee Wormington, a Toronto resident who owns a tiny house with his wife Julie on Lake Lochiel, about 30 kilometers north of Sherbrooke. “I’m definitely getting materials for some work around the place.”

Dave Ridgeway from Alberta, owner of a summer home near Manchester, added: “This is great news for me as I will be installing a metal roof on the cottage. So the money that would have gone to that tax is now going to be spent on a company in Dartmouth that manufactures that metal roofing.

Houston had said the new tax policy was ‘designed to be a housing support tool,’ but he never clarified how the expected $65 million in additional revenue per year would be used to address the inventory shortage. affordable, a serious and growing problem. problem.

That lack of clarity fueled criticism — and even threats to pull local stakes — among non-resident homeowners across Canada and as far away as Europe when the measures were introduced in mid-April.

“An annual tax penalty for non-residents is simply counterproductive,” wrote Christoph Mause of Ratingen, Germany, who owns a seasonal home in Liscomb, in a letter to Houston on April 22. “Nor does it help solve the housing crisis caused by the government itself. Seasonal residents, in particular, bring millions of dollars to the province of Nova Scotia every year, building new homes , employing local service providers and thus supporting local communities in structurally weak areas.

He added: “I have heard friends say before that they are considering selling their holiday homes and some of my neighbors who have recently bought land in Gegogan Harbour/Liscomb have already announced that they are unlikely to build in the new conditions. ”

At last week’s press conference, Houston said, “When you realize that the tool you have in your hand might not do the job, you look for another tool,” adding, “I m ‘commit to finding a tool to make home affordable…especially for first time home buyers, a reality in this province.

No further details on alternatives to the waived tax were available.

“I think the loss of revenue is definitely going to be a concern, especially if that money is going to go towards building affordable housing,” said Nancy O’Regan, executive director of Guysborough County Housing Network. “It will definitely reduce that. The government is going to keep the transfer tax, so I think that will give a bit of extra revenue.

Still, she added, reversing was the right thing to do. “I’m happy,” she said. “I think we’ve heard a lot about Guysborough County residents who have summer homes here and family roots here. It was just the injustice, and we heard from people from other provinces who really want to keep their properties here and plan to use them.

Meanwhile, Ridgeway and Wormington congratulated Houston on their turnaround.

“Governments and leaders at this time are rarely willing to admit they made a mistake,” Wormington said. “So I was, like, ‘Wow…Okay, they made a mistake and now they’re backing down.’ I was just impressed.

Says Ridgeway: “Congratulations to [Houston] to see his way through this. It takes a braver politician than most to do that.

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Penny D. Jackson