North End se­niors brace for tax hike

‘Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion’ could push peo­ple from their neigh­bour­hood

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN mvan­don­gen@thes­ 905-526-3241 | @Mat­tatthes­pec

When Mike Cam­panella first eyed the new as­sessed value of his 93year-old dad’s North End home, he as­sumed it was an er­ror.

The one-storey, sid­ing-cov­ered house built in the 1920s was last val­ued by the Mu­nic­i­pal Prop­erty As­sess­ment Cor­po­ra­tion at $166,000. But the newly mailed re­assess­ment of Alf Cam­panella’s long­time home is $238,000.

“A 43 per cent in­crease?” said son Mike, who lives with his fa­ther north of Jackie Wash­ing­ton Ro­tary Park. “My dad has done noth­ing ma­jor to the place. No ad­di­tions, no swim­ming pools, noth­ing.”

But af­ter talk­ing to neigh­bours, Cam­panella re­al­ized the spike was not an aber­ra­tion, at least in the North End. “The (hous­ing) prices are way up,” he said. “Maybe that’s good for some peo­ple, but not se­niors on a fixed in­come.”

Hamil­ton saw its av­er­age res­i­den­tial prop­erty value spike 27 per cent in the lat­est round of re­assess­ments across the prov­ince. But the av­er­age in the north­west end of the lower city is 40 per cent.

As a gen­eral rule, any prop­erty owner who sees an as­sess­ment in­crease above the city av­er­age can ex­pect a tax hike.

Cam­panella said he’s wor­ried his fa­ther, whose pri­mary in­come is an un­cer­tain pen­sion from the for­mer Stelco, won’t be able to af­ford a boost to his $2,200 tax bill.

Boom town Hamil­ton res­i­dents and politi­cians are talk­ing about the dan­gers of “gen­tri­fi­ca­tion,” the idea of lower-in­come res­i­dents be­ing pushed out of neigh­bour­hoods as new­com­ers buy up prop­erty at ever-ris­ing prices.

An anti-gen­tri­fi­ca­tion group re­cently crashed a tour of in­vestors and de­vel­op­ers, yelling slo­gans, toss­ing garbage and briefly tus­sling with po­lice.

Tax di­rec­tor Larry Fri­day agreed some res­i­dents are “le­git­i­mately wor­ried” about the im­pli­ca­tions of rapidly ris­ing home prices. But he noted new as­sessed val­ues are phased in over four years to ease tax pain — and the city of­fers tax-re­lief op­tions to those in need.

For ex­am­ple, se­niors can ap­ply for a $183 tax re­bate, while res­i­dents suf­fer­ing ex­treme ill­ness or poverty can ap­peal for a break on com­pas­sion­ate grounds. Those

ap­peals are con­sid­ered by the pro­vin­cial as­sess­ment review board.

Low-in­come se­niors can also ap­ply for tax de­fer­ral, mean­ing tax hikes are not paid un­til the prop­erty is sold. But some res­i­dents don’t want to leave.

“I get real es­tate agents knock­ing on my door all the time. I’ll never go. They’ll have to carry me out of here,” said 76-year-old Norm Du­vall, who has lived in the North End near Ben­netto Com­mu­nity Cen­tre for 65 years.

Du­vall ad­mit­ted he’s wor­ried what the re­assess­ment means for his $2,400-a-year tax bill. He re­ceives an old age sup­ple­ment and Canada pen­sion, but also rents to a fam­ily mem­ber to help pay bills.

Du­vall has no plans to ap­peal his as­sess­ment. But he hopes coun­cil­lors are “pay­ing at­ten­tion come bud­get time” to what tax hikes mean to North End se­niors.

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