Garish wealth. Scarce rental housing. A government that sees the middle class as stinking rich. No wonder Vancouverites are at each other’s throats.
Across the street from a run-of-the-mill Starbucks in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver is a two-storey Ferrari and Maserati dealership. Locals will tell you with amazement that it is the highest-volume location in North America. Whether or not that’s true, the ﬁve homeowners gathered today around a table at the Starbucks want to make clear that Ferraris are not for people like them. Though their homes on the west side of the city may be worth millions of dollars, they do not consider themselves rich. “It’s really hurtful when someone says, ‘You live in a $2-million property, so that means you’re a wealthy person,’ ” says Mary Lavin, an English teacher. “Um, no. Not at all.” Lavin points to her car in the lot, a 1998 Toyota Tercel. “I’ve had one holiday in my life.”
Premica Baines, a retired federal government worker, notes she walked here from her home in Point Grey, which is assessed at around $4.5 million. She even brought her own coffee. “The majority of the people who are not living in the neighbourhood think we have lots of money in our accounts,” Baines says. “It’s not true.”
They do, however, have lots of equity in their homes, which the provincial NDP government has moved to tax at a higher rate. The government announced a change to what’s called the school tax, a levy derived from property values that helps fund the education system. Starting next year, some residents will pay an additional 0.2 per cent on the amount by which their property values exceed $3 million, and 0.4 per cent on the portion above $4 million. (For a $3.5-million home, that’s an increase of $1,000 per year.)