Homelessness referendum dilemma resolved

Commen-Terry: Should I vote if I don't own a home?

Terry Farrell

Record staff

I struggled with my decision regarding the Comox Valley Regional District homelessness referendum.

It wasn’t the question, the wording, or the amount of tax being suggested that I struggled with; it was whether or not I would participate in the vote at all.

I have no problem in declaring that I feel more should be done to address the homelessness issue in our community. That said, we – my family – do not presently own a home in the Comox Valley. In that respect, do we have the right to determine whether the taxes of property owners be raised in order to address a problem that affects everyone? And why should our community’s property owners be burdened with this issue?

Part of me – a big part of me – says they shouldn’t. Moreover, if they should be burdened with this issue, shouldn’t the decision be made solely by the property owners? Shouldn’t you have to be a property owner in order to place a vote in this referendum?

That was the biggest dilemma for my family. It was not whether or not we should help those who need help. To us, that is not even a debatable topic. But should we have a say in the taxes allotted to battle the issue, when we are not paying those taxes?

It brought me back to an argument I had with myself every year, as a homeowner, at tax time, in Edmonton. I had a choice as to whether my school taxes went to the public or separate school system. But I had no choice as to whether or not I paid those taxes – even though I was a single man, with no children, and knew (notwithstanding an unplanned incident) that I would never have any children of my own. I paid school taxes, even though I had no children. It was done for the “greater good” of my community.

So is this tax.

After coming to grips with that comparison, I felt comfortable in my decision to vote in Saturday’s referendum.

I voted in favour of the proposal, despite not owning any property in the Comox Valley at this time.

That said, let it be known that my family will be contributing to the process – in much the same way as any current homeowner will be forced to do, partly because of my vote.

The referendum dictates that at the tax rate of two cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, the owner of a residential property assessed at $300,000 would pay $6 per year.

On Monday, my family committed to a $40 payment to one of the non-profits within the Coalition to End Homelessness in the Comox Valley. That is the same amount as any homeowner with a home valued at $400,000 will pay over the next five years. Our thinking is that when we do purchase property here, that’s the approximate value of the property we will purchase.

We chose Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness as our charity.

(Until the CVRD has its service in place, it does not have the ability to accept voluntary donations and issue tax receipts. For this reason, we are donating directly to one of the services within the coalition.)

And now we put the challenge out to any other non-owners who voted “yes” to the referendum. Put your money where your vote went.

If you felt strongly enough to take the time to vote on the referendum, and you are not a homeowner in the Valley, put an end to all the cries of discrimination against those who are being forced to pay the tax.

The final (unofficial) vote was 1,608 “yes” to 1,426 “no”.

I don’t disagree with anyone who voted “no” based on the concept that it is a discriminatory vote. It is a compelling, and logical argument.

But I do believe by backing my “yes” vote with a $40 pledge, it goes a long way toward negating that claim. At very least, it legitimizes my vote.

To follow my lead, go to www.cvhousing.ca and pick a member agency. Any one of them will be happy you did.

Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record

 

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