Letter to the editor

Since becoming B.C.’s seniors advocate in March 2024, I’ve been travelling the province meeting with seniors in communities big and small. Overwhelmingly, the number one issue I’ve heard from older people is their struggle with affordability.

In B.C., 80 per cent of seniors own their own homes, compared to 70 per cent of the overall population. The vast majority of seniors want to age in place and remain in their homes. However, in many B.C. communities, there are very few or no condominiums or apartments available if a senior wanted to downsize. The costs of home ownership such as taxes, maintenance and insurance are often equal to, or in some cases, greater than rents. In fact, 49 per cent of low-income senior homeowners report they cannot afford needed major repairs for safety or accessibility.

One program that seniors are taking advantage of more and more is B.C.’s Property Tax Deferral Program which allows eligible homeowners 55+, surviving spouses and persons with disabilities to defer paying their property taxes until the homeowner passes away or sells the property. The current interest rate is 5.2 per cent which is simple, non-compounding, and below the prime rate. In many cases, the rising equity in the home covers the cost of the property taxes and interest owing when the home is sold or transferred.

Since 2019, the Consumer Price Index has risen 15.1 per cent in B.C. and seniors with fixed incomes are feeling the pressure when buying food, medical supplies and prescriptions, home support, personal care and other necessities of life. Deferring property taxes could save older homeowners up to $400 or more each month which could be spent on maintenance or modifying a residence to help a senior remain in their home longer.

I encourage anyone eligible to consider deferring their property taxes. The best time to apply is after receiving your property tax bill and before the taxes are due. 

Please take the opportunity to learn more by visiting https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes.”

Dan Levitt

BC Seniors Advocate