Report on MPAC property assessment info session

By Penny Caldwell »Penny Caldwell

January 29th, 2009

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Guest blog from Blair Eveleigh, Associate Editor of Cottage Life magazine, who was at the MPAC meeting last night. Feel free to leave a comment or question for Blair here:

“Remember, this is a church,” were the first words out of Bill Bradley’s mouth when he took the podium at a meeting last night in Toronto. Perhaps he was expecting some rowdiness from the mostly cottager crowd of 150 that had gathered at a hall at the Lawrence Park Community Church, near Lawrence and Bayview, for a session with representatives of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). After a day of non-stop snowfall, the organizers—Waterfront Ratepayers After Fair Taxation (WRAFT) and Coalition After Property Tax Reform (CAPTR)—had considered cancelling, but of course, assessments are a hot-button issue, and the people turned up.

The evening was billed as an information session about the methodology of the 2008 assessment and the gathering got that in spades. Bradley, MPAC’s account manager, business relations, and an accredited appraiser with the Appraisal Institute of Canada, went through a detailed and thorough explanation of how the corporation comes up with the numbers you see on your assessment notice, covering everything that comes into play, from sales figures to on-site inspections to multiple regression analysis. For those who thought that MPAC just plucked the numbers out of the air, the explanation must have come as a revelation. The complex process starts to fall apart, though, when MPAC has to consider heterogeneous properties, such as waterfront in cottage country, and the questions that came from the audience reflected the frustration over how the system deals with anomalies.

Larry Hummel, MPAC’s vice president, property values, fielded queries about why assessed values on waterfront properties have risen so much in the latest assessment. “It will always be a problem,” he said, referring to the valuation of unique properties, and added that judgment comes into the exercise when there are few comparable sales figures to factor into a property’s assessment. Another thing to consider: Land value is increasing at a greater rate than the value on structures, so a small waterfront lot with a large, new cottage may have a smaller increase in value than a large lot with a small, old cabin. Also, property values on smaller lakes are increasing faster than on larger lakes, reflecting the increased market demand.

Bradley and Hummel also discussed AboutMyProperty, the new online interactive feature on MPAC’s website. About 55,000 properties across the province, are not on the system’s maps, so property owners in areas such as Georgian Bay and Lake of Bays cannot access comparable properties for comparison. Hummel said MPAC was working to fix the problem and that owners could call MPAC to get neighbourhood comparisons sent to them.

Finally, one cottager had some advice for the others assembled: In the last assessment round, he’d found a neighbouring property that had been undervalued in its assessment and used that to gain a reassessment of his own property. “There are still chestnuts like that out there,” he said.

CAPTR intends to post MAPC’s full PowerPoint presentation from the meeting on its website.

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