Tax Havens Gardens

In May 2006, councilor Peter Ladner introduced and passed a motion to increase the number of community gardens in the Lower Mainland to 2 010 by the year 2010, as part of Vancouver’s “Olympic legacy.” Recently, since the economy took a dive, commercial property developers have taken this suggestion up with aplomb, but not because their hearts are two sizes too big.

According to Charlie Smith at the Straight, the tax break is roughly 80%, and the city stood to lose $650 090 this year from this type of reclassification. According to Alan Garr at The Courier, this amount gets transferred onto the tax responsibilities of other landowners; back in February, he calculated that each plot in the garden at Davie and Burrard was being subsidized by taxpayers in the amount of $3450, or roughly “$350 for the space needed for one tomato plant.” In May, the Straight reported that 17 lots had been converted since 2007, and another six were in the works – as Global notes, five of those had come through as of the beginning of December, and the garden in question was under review. Considering the apparent popularity of this tactic, the amount of lost revenue is likely nearing a million dollars.

To make this more aggravating, CityCaucus.com reports that the city council’s current policy on dealing with this loophole is to defer to the BC Assessment Authority, who is more or less doing what it’s told to do by the tax laws that govern it, so who knows when we can expect city council to do anything about it. Gregor Robertson, everybody’s favourite liberal businessman, has been supporting a major tax shift away from commercial properties and onto residential properties since before he was elected mayor, which, according to the Straight, amounts to a four percent increase for residential landowners and a zero percent increase for commercial landowners. This policy is being written into the same budget that’s about to cut $20 million in city services next year, including a $3 million cut in community services, a $2.8 million cut to parks and recreation, and a $1.4 million cut to the public library system.

Oh, and don’t forget that somewhere in there the city scrounged up $450 000 to spend on $350 uniforms for the Host City Team to wear during the Olympics.

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