The new year came with a bit of a shock for a couple hundred Oak Bay homeowners.
While property assessments went out the first week of January, deputy area assessor Greg Wood said notices were sent to an estimated 200 to 250 property owners in late-December informing them that their assessments would rise by more than 20 per cent.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. There was a big increase back in the early ‘90s but nothing like this,” said Russell Freethy, whose assessment for his Central Avenue property increased by more than 27 per cent.
Wood said the increase was due to upwards of 15 properties that were purchased and redeveloped over the past two years.
“People are willing to pay that for what is essentially a raw lot. When we noticed that over the two years, that was the segment that we targeted with some substantive increase in terms of the land value,” said Wood.
He said the higher assessment increases were limited to properties with redevelopment potential, but couldn’t specify what criteria was used to determine the assessment increase. Wood did say that it isn’t common for homeowners to see their assessments rise by more than 20 per cent. He said about 1,200 of the notices of increased assessments were sent out in Greater Victoria, although it could have been for different reasons.
“I don’t know if I would characterize it as catchup,” said Wood. “We like to do our homework and we like to make sure that when we do make that type of an increase that it’s reasonable and supportable and we wait until we have the market evidence. Looking at properties in that Oak Bay segment we recognized that we had enough evidence to make that change.”
Freethy’s property is an old orchard owned by his family, and while the 67-foot-by-287-foot lot is larger than a traditional property, he said he’s limited in what he can do with it.
“It’s big, but you can’t put anything on it,” he said. “When you consider nothing but a single family house can be built on these properties, the value, in my opinion, is way out of line.”
Freethy also owns the adjacent property, which he rents out with a 900-square-foot cottage, and its assessment will also climb by more than 20 per cent.
Freethy plans to appeal the assessment, something that Wood says is an option for all homeowners not happy with their assessment.
“We would encourage them to call our office and discuss the change in their assessment and we’ll go through the normal procedure of making sure we have all the information correct,” said Wood.
“If they’re still not satisfied and they would like to appeal, they would have that avenue.”
Overall, the Capital Region’s assessment roll for the more than 146,000 properties in the region increased slightly to $90.5 billion.
“The majority of residential home owners will observe a modest assessment change compared to last year’s assessment,” said Reuben Danakody, regional assessor. “Most single family and strata residential home owners in the Capital Region will see average changes of -2 per cent to +3 per cent. This reflects market change from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014.”
The average assessment for a home in Oak Bay went from $667,000 in July 2013 to $686,000 in July 2014. Commercial properties in the Capital Region will see an estimated assessment increase of between two and six per cent.
Property owners can contact BC Assessment toll-free at 1-866-valueBC (1-866-825-8322) or online by clicking “Connect” at www.bcassessment.ca. Visit www.bcassessment.ca for more information about the 2015 Assessment Roll including lists of 2015’s top 100 most valuable residential properties across the province.