A Commercial Tax Freeze Inadvertently Impacts Housing Affordability.

The Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia (IPOANS) cautiously applauds the Halifax Chamber of Commerce for HRM to assist commercial landlords by freezing tax rates at 1.9%, a move designed to help businesses cope with COVID-19.

However, capping commercial property tax increases at 1.9% leaves only one property assessment sub-classification under the Nova Scotia Capped Assessment Program (CAP), the Multi-Unit Residential Building (MURB) industry sector as not being capped for assessments – and hence effectively unlimited property tax increases.

No matter how well-meaning the commercial tax freeze sounds, such a move would ultimately leave HRM’s estimated 184,000 apartment residents with higher rents to offset any budget shortfalls the city incurs. Historically, HRM’s budget shortfalls were made-up by both Commercial and MURB landlords shouldering the burden of the Capped Assessment Program. These two sectors are effectively allocated a proportionately higher load of property taxes as a result of the distortions that get worse each year brought about by the Capped Assessment Program.

Yet again, COVID-19 brings another government policy inequity to the surface, this time, an unfair property assessment program, the CAP that works in direct conflict to housing affordability initiatives.  Establishing a fairer property assessment process for all Nova Scotians requires the CAP’s immediate abolishment, which would also bring about more direct, permanent property tax relief for commercial property owners.

Unless the proposed tax freeze includes the MURB industry sector, on behalf of HRM’s 184,000 residents, IPOANS, with regret, cannot support a commercial tax freeze unless the freeze has MURBs included.

Kevin Russell
Executive Director
The Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia