Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Homes in inner city moving on up

Assessed values increase 19 per cent

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In a case of good news and bad news for inner-city homeowners, residential property values in the oldest neighbourhoods are rising faster than in the rest of the city -- along with property-tax bills.

The assessed value of an inner-city home in Winnipeg increased by an average of 19 per cent from 2012 to 2014, the city's latest general assessment shows.

The average increase for residential properties across the city was 12 per cent during the same time.

The strong growth in the inner city marks the continuation of a long-term rebound from the dark days of the 1990s, when dilapidated homes in the most impoverished inner-city neighbourhoods weren't worth the cost of repairs or renovations.

But the higher-than-average rise in property values also means the inner city now shoulders a greater share of the property-tax burden, a redistribution that should translate into higher-than-average property-tax bills this spring.

"What's happening now and what we'll continue to see is home values in the inner city are still increasing," said Mel Chambers, director of Winnipeg's assessment and taxation department. "That's still where you're seeing the bulk of the real estate activity."

Chambers said starter homes in older neighbourhoods are becoming more expensive. But their owners have more equity, which bodes well for the long-term health of older neighbourhoods.

"I think people are making choices to move into areas they may not have considered before because the cost of new properties is prohibitive," said North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who chairs council's property committee and is a real estate appraiser.

"We are seeing some degree of gentrification in some areas of Winnipeg, where people are investing in these properties," he said. "The unfortunate downside of the success... is higher property taxes. But I don't think it's a bad thing when someone's biggest asset has increased in value."

Late last year, city council approved a 2.95 per cent hike in the total amount of property taxes Winnipeg will collect in 2014. This increase is not applied to every property equally.

Once every two years, the city reassesses the value of all of its residential and commercial properties -- and those that increase in value greater than the city-wide average are hit with proportionately higher property-tax bills. Conversely, properties whose values rose lower than the city-wide average will see their tax bills rise more slowly.

Owners of most properties enrolled in the tax-instalment payment plan received notices of their new estimated monthly tab in December, thanks to city council's early approval of the 2014 operating budget, Chambers said.

Remaining property owners should receive their tax bills in March, after school boards set their taxation policies for the year, he added. The city collects education taxes on behalf of the province.

The second-fastest rise in assessed property values in the past two years was in Old Kildonan/West Kildonan, where the value of the average home rose 17 per cent.

The slowest increase, nine per cent, was found in newer areas of St. Vital and St. Boniface.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2014 A4

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