A so-called “stove tax” is unfairly burdening Burnaby families with disabled children, mayoral hopeful Mike Hurley says.
The secondary suite levy, brought in last year, charges homeowners an additional 50 per cent on their water and sewer bill if they have more than one stove in their home.
Mayor Derek Corrigan defended the measure as a creative strategy to recoup amenity costs, while avoiding a “witch hunt” for illegal suites during a housing crisis.
If the city only applied the surcharge to homes with legalized suites, Corrigan said it would then have to weed out illegal suites across the city to be fair. Many homeowners would then face thousands of dollars in renovation costs and would likely take their rentals off the market instead, according to Corrigan.
The city currently charges $1,198 annually in combined sewer and water utilities to single-family homeowners without an additional stove and $1,767 to those with an extra stove.
“These are not extreme charges,” Corrigan said.
The surcharge applies to any home with a second stove, whether it has an occupied suite or not.
Homeowners can remove their additional stove and invite city staff to inspect their home. Once it has been confirmed they only have one stove, they will no longer be charged the levy.
Hurley said he supports the intent of the secondary suite levy but believes it should come with exceptions.
He estimates there are some 1,500 to 2,000 homes with second stoves who should not be charged the extra utility fees.
“If you have a summer kitchen for your family,” Hurley said, “or if you have a mobility-challenged child that happens to be living in the basement and you’re trying to teach them life-skills … this is a real big challenge.”
For families with disabled children seeking more autonomy, Hurley said that extra charge could mean the difference between affording an annual bus pass or not.
Hurley said he would retain the “stove tax” but would allow for homeowners to plead their case to city staff, who could exempt them from the levy.
Corrigan acknowledged that the levy may unfairly affect some residents.
“There’s always exceptions that make it difficult for applying rules,” he said.
Hurley is currently the only declared candidate challenging Corrigan for the mayor’s chair in the Oct. 20 civic election.