Annette Pollock was shocked when she opened her property assessment and discovered her home had skyrocketed in value by nearly 70 per cent in just one year.
In 2019, the 59-year-old support worker’s mobile home in the G&M Trailer Court on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc reserve land was valued at $117,400.
In 2020, BC Assessment determined it to be worth $197,200.
“This is insanely insane,” Pollock said, telling KTW she may be forced to move as a result of impending property taxes hikes.
“I’m ready to sell. This is so wrong. I’m going to have to think about, I have big dogs. I don’t have another place to go with my dogs.
“On behalf of the other people here, it’s wrong.”
As most Kamloops residents saw a modest increase to property values this year, maxing out at about 15 per cent, residents who live in mobile home parks on reserve land in Kamloops and throughout the region saw a much steeper spike.
Mobile homes on Tk’emlups land rose on average by about 40 per cent in 2020, according to BC Assessment, while some residents have reported increases up to more than 70 per cent.
BC Assessment Thompson-Okanagan assessor Tracy Wall said that in advance of the 2020 roll, BC Assessment conducted a re-assessment project, which reviewed all residential occupiers of First Nations land throughout the Thompson-Okanagan region, including 500 mobile homes on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc land.
Owners were sent questionnaires about improvements to homes or mobile homes.
Wall said in conjunction with market values, assessment values increased “substantially.”
Homeowners were notified in December of the impending increase.
Why did this happen — and why now?
Wall said historically, those assessments were too low.
BC Assessment regularly conducts reviews of different market sectors, she said, and First Nations appeal adjudicating boards in other parts of the province recently reinforced the requirement for all properties to be assessed at their full fee simple interest.
The same review was conducted on Vancouver Island last year and it is happening this year on the Lower Mainland.
“In the past, the assessments on the Tk’emlups Indian Band for mobile homes were far too conservative,” Wall said. “The appeal decisions highlighted this fact, which necessitated a review of all residential occupiers of First Nation land in our region.”
Prior to making the changes, Wall said, the First Nations Tax Commission and all of First Nations bands in the region were consulted.
“BC Assessment conducted this review in order to create an accurate assessment roll for these First Nations, with values at current market value as of July 1, 2019,” she said.
A letter from Tk’emlups to its taxpayers about 2020 property assessment increases further explains: “BCA recognized the need for review of residential property as per assessment legislation.
“The First Nation Residential Occupier Project by BCA established 2020 assessments based on accurate improvement inventory and fee simple market sales,” the letter from Tk’emlups states.
“In addition, case law from Supreme Court of Canada in the Golden Acres decision has set a precedent that assessment review boards must consider in decisions regarding value of residential property as if the occupied property was held in fee simple off reserve.”
Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir said the First Nation was consulted, noting she supports the decision, which she said will add value to homes on the reserve and result in trickle-down services to taxpayers.
Pollock, however, does not believe she can sell her home for the amount at which it has been assessed and only sees the immediate consequences on her pocketbook — higher taxes, which she said will have a “huge impact.”
“It’s not just me,” Pollock said. “We’re talking everybody in the trailer park. We’re talking seniors. They don’t even know what’s happening. They don’t even get it. They don’t understand.
“They see and they go, ‘Oh, my mobile is worth this much more.’ No it is not. We cannot sell it for any more. It’s not going to help them or they just don’t realize, right?”
G&M Trailer Court resident Adam Funk, whose property value is set to rise by 71 per cent in 2020, said people in his area feel BC Assessment has unfairly compared reserve property to homes in the City of Kamloops.
While Kamloops residents can expect to turn on their tap to find clean drinking water, courtesy a world-class water treatment plant, Funk and Pollock both said they do not have access to clean drinking water.
Funk said he is required to fill up five-gallon drums during high water times, when, he said, trailer park residents are put on a boil water advisory.
“The difference between in town and here is that, well, in town you have water service, all that other stuff. I mean, for here, all they do is pump water out of the river. Everybody in the park still doesn’t have drinking water yet,” Funk said.
“A couple years ago, the government gave a grant to the band here to replace all the septic system because they didn’t want it going into the water table anymore. They only got about probably 17 trailers done in here. The rest are still same old,” he said.
“Same thing with paved roads and stuff. People were just saying like, it doesn’t make sense that the land value be assessed at the same rate as in the city when the roads are still dirt roads and there’s no services comparatively.”
Casimir defended Tk’emlups’ work, but could not detail any new services that would come, should the band see an injection of cash from the property assessment increase.
BC Assessment and Tk’emlups met in recent weeks to discuss the matter with residents impacted by the increased assessments.
THE APPEAL PROCESS
Concerned property occupiers/holders of First Nations land may research their assessment online at bcassessment.ca and contact BC Assessment to discuss their assessment value by calling 1-866-825-8322.
BC Assessment appraisers will review the property inventory currently on file and provide comparable assessments and fee simple sales located off reserve.
If a property occupier/holder of First Nation Land wishes to appeal their assessment, they can do so by sending an appeal letter, email or online submission to the assessor by the March 2 appeal deadline.
Appeal information is available on their assessment notice and online at bcassessment.ca.