Taxing social housing?

In the midst of a housing crisis, should the City of Penticton be collecting property tax from social housing providers?

That question will be debated by city council next week, when members decide which community nonprofit groups deserve a tax break.

In this week’s Mayor’s Minute, Andrew Jakubeit said he would like to see policy on the subject rewritten, focusing on the $100,000 ceiling of working capital that disqualifies an organization from receiving a tax exemption.

“$100,000 is sort of an arbitrary number, in some cases, that maybe penalizes a group that could be saving over the last few years to initiate a project or buy a building to enhance their give back to the community.”

Earlier this month, councillors delayed making a decision on the tax exemptions. They heard from South Okanagan-Similkameen Brain Injury Society executive director Linda Sankey, who said people could be put on the streets if they were forced to pay tax on two properties.

“Non-profits have very limited revenue sources and all their expenditures are going towards providing services to the community, so waiving their taxes just means there is more money going back into the community,” Jakubeit said.

He said council will get more details on each group applying for a tax exemption at Tuesday’s meeting, and will probably instigate a policy review for next year. This year’s batch of tax-exempt groups needs to be into the province by the end of the month.

“The city can’t do everything. We are not the ones at the soup kitchen, or the ones providing little league soccer or cultural events,” he said, adding that many of these nonprofits provide things that make up the “core fabric that makes a community tick.”

He suggested groups with more money in the bank could get a partial tax break, or the guidelines could be changed depending on what the group is providing.

Places of worship have also always been exempt from paying property tax in Penticton.

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