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Whistler asks province to relax rules on property tax deferments

Currently, employee-restricted properties leased from municipality not eligible for B.C.’s low-interest Provincial Property Tax Deferment Program
Employee-restricted homeowners in Whistler are no longer deemed eligible to access funding through the Provincial Property Tax Deferment Program, something the RMOW is hopeful to change. Photo courtesy of the Whistler Housing Authority

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is calling on the B.C. government to relax its eligibility requirements for a low-interest loan program to allow Whistler property owners who lease from the municipality to access available funding.

The Provincial Property Tax Deferment Program (PPT) is an initiative that helps qualified B.C. homeowners access funding to pay the property tax on their principal residence. Currently, the funding is doled out through two streams: its Regular Program, available to people 55 and older, a surviving spouse of any age, or a person with disabilities; and its Families with Children Program, available to parents, step parents, or guardians who are financially supporting a child.

Properties leased from the municipality—which includes employee housing properties with housing agreements or leases with the RMOW—are not deemed eligible for the program.

“This is a significant barrier for some Whistler employees, who may otherwise qualify,” read a report to council presented on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

From 2018 to 2022, the RMOW had an arrangement with the B.C. Ministry of Finance’s property taxation branch that allowed owners of employee-restricted Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) properties to take part in the program.

In March, council passed a resolution directing staff to collaborate with the WHA, a municipal subsidiary, to advocate to the province to include employee-restricted properties, including leasehold properties, as eligible participants in the PPT.

The resulting letter, signed by Mayor Jack Crompton and addressed to B.C. finance minister Katrine Conroy, was presented to council this week and detailed the housing crisis that has acutely impacted Whistler.

“The housing crisis affects people across our province, impacting the quality of life in communities and limiting the potential of our economy. As an internationally renowned four-season resort with over three million visitors annually, Whistler’s housing affordability challenges are amplified,” Crompton wrote.

The letter highlights a figure from the RMOW’s 2022 Housing Needs Report that found the average market property in Whistler is unaffordable for more than 90 per cent of residents, concluding “the market alone cannot be relied upon to provide affordable, suitable, and adequate housing units for Whistler’s workforce,” Crompton explained. “Access to housing that is affordable to employees is essential to ensure that Whistler's workforce can remain in Whistler long-term.”

According to the RMOW, there are approximately 1,295 ownership and municipal leasehold employee restricted housing units in Whistler, with more currently being built. Crompton went on to say that allowing employee restricted homeowners access the loan program between 2018 and 2022 “improved housing affordability for Whistler employee and retiree households.

“It is important that municipal and provincial programs are aligned, and encourage shared responsibility and effective solutions to housing affordability challenges,” he wrote. 

Affordable housing has been identified as one of council’s four core priorities for its term, along with community engagement, smart tourism, and climate action.

RMOW staff and councillors should have ample opportunity to chew the ear of provincial officials, with the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention set for Sept. 18 to 22 in Vancouver.