North End seniors brace for tax hike
‘Gentrification’ could push people from their neighbourhood
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.