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The big squeeze

Rising taxes, rising costs, and the impact on the Whistler standard of living

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The affordability situation does not look that much greener on the homeowner side of the equation. It is not secret that the price to buy is high in this resort town. According to Pat Kelly from Whistler Real Estate Company Ltd. (WREC), the medium selling price of a home in Whistler has rested around $1.25 million for the past five years.

The Reynolds could put their name down on the WHA’s resident restricted waitlist. With WHA homes tied to the rate of inflation, this wholly owned subsidiary of the RMOW is the best bet for long-term locals looking to own a home in Whistler. But even with the WHA’s promising path to ownership, Kelly adds that there are several other costs a prospective buyer needs to consider when looking at real estate — namely their mortgage interest rate, yearly property taxes, heating and lighting costs, housing insurances prices and the ongoing cost of maintenance.

“Property taxes have gone up dramatically over the past five year period,” explained Kelly.

“People who are paying for some of the more expensive properties in town, they are paying between $12,000 to $15,000 in property taxes. For a similar house size in West Vancouver, that might be $3,000 to $4,000.”

And property taxes went up again this year. On May 5, council approved a property tax rate increase of 5.5 per cent to mitigate an RMOW budget shortfall. That tax rate means an average residence, assessed at $750,000, faced an increase of $82 this year. And an average single-family home, assessed at $1.3 million, was impacted by $128.

Michele Comeau Thompson, manager of communications for the RMOW, said that according to the municipal Resident Property Assistance Program, the average property tax (municipal property taxes plus provincial school taxes) for residents this year in Whistler was $2,159.

For an average Whistler family like the Reynolds, approximately 2.5 per cent of their household income would go towards property taxes if they were to own. (Though Comeau Thompson warned it is difficult to nail down exact percentages like this since property taxes are not based on income.)

Utility fees also went up this year by $161. And with rising costs of heat and maintenance costs, the general price of owning a home in Whistler is not getting more affordable any time soon.

“I think for the local resident, the cost of housing here is higher than in other communities, but that is because other communities have more choices,” said Kelly.