October 07, 2015 - 6:30 PM
KELOWNA - City hall handed out more than $1.5 million in property tax exemptions this week to churches, private schools and other non-profit organizations, but one organization did not get approved for exemption status.
Most of the organizations receiving the exemptions are already on the books with the city, so after a review by city staff, they were rubber stamped by council. All except the John Howard Society, where a pair of houses owned by non-profit group were denied the exemption.
The amounts aren’t huge — $3,800 for a house that provides below market rental housing to a group of mainly older men with a variety of physical and mental health issues and another $3,200 for a house that provides shelter for a women so hard to house she must live on her own.
The problem? Both homes ostensibly provide long-term housing, longer than the two-year limit provided for in the regulations governing the tax exemptions.
Gaelene Askeland, executive director of the John Howard Society in the Central Okanagan, was taken by surprise when she found out the organization had lost its exemption.
“We will have to pass it along to the clients, who live on disability income assistance. These are hard to house clients who haven’t been able to find housing anywhere else. It may not be a lot of money but it makes a big difference to someone on income assistance,” she says. “I’m pretty disappointed the city didn’t support this.”
Askeland says some city councillors questioned why the society was seemingly being singled out, but backed down when staff advised giving them an exemption might trigger a wave of me-too applications from other non-profit societies.
“I understand their reasoning, I guess, but we are a non-profit and we’re not making any money out of this. The irony is that none of the clients have stayed past two years anyway.”
While the society figures out how to best rectify the situation Askeland has decided to not yet share the news with the house residents, for fear of upsetting them.
“This is for 2016 tax year, so we’re okay for now, but it will become a problem next year.”
She hopes to argue her case before council at some point and says they may have to reconfigure the house into single-occupancy rooms and reapply for tax exemption for 2017.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015