Mayor Valérie Plante has kept her election promise to limit the average residential tax increase to two per cent under Montreal’s 2022 operating budget.
Non-residential properties will see taxes go up by only 1.5 per cent, according to the $6.46-billion spending plan unveiled Wednesday.
Amid a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, Plante said her administration is prioritizing measures to help society’s most vulnerable, including $10 million to combat poverty and exclusion, of which $5.9 million is for programs for the homeless — double last year’s funding.
“The presentation of the budget may seem to come at an … inopportune time, but I think it is very important that we carry out this exercise in transparency,” she said at a press conference via Zoom, just two days before Christmas Eve.
“It is especially important to do so in the context of the pandemic,” Plante said.
“It will also allow us to continue the economic recovery and adapt the city’s services to needs that have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” she added.
Plante, who has been in isolation and working remotely since announcing Saturday that she had contracted the virus , said she’s feeling “better and better.”
The administration also unveiled a $19.54-billion capital works program for 2022-2031.
Public security is getting the biggest piece of the pie, accounting for 17.7 per cent of the 2022 budget.
To address the recent surge in gun crime, the city is boosting police funding by $45 million, for a total of $724.1 million. It will gradually equip police officers with body cameras starting in 2022, at a cost of $16.5 million over the next 10 years.
Montreal will spend $1.2 million in 2022 to combat domestic violence. Over the next decade, it will invest $52.6 million to improve 911 service.
Debt & other major expenses
Servicing the city’s long-term debt is the next biggest expense, at 17 per cent. The city’s debt-to-revenue ratio will rise by one per cent to 119 per cent.
Other major expenses include administration (10.8 per cent), leisure and culture (10.1 per cent), public transit (10 per cent), roads (5.6 per cent), water (4.1 per cent), garbage and recycling (3.4 per cent) snow removal (2.9 per cent) and social housing (2.8 per cent).
Social housing, homelessness
After promising 60,000 new social and affordable housing units in the last election campaign, the Plante administration has earmarked $111 million in the 2022 budget to complete its 2017 election promise of 12,000 affordable social housing units. It will spend $3.4 million for programs promoting access to home ownership.
The 10-year capital works plan includes $116.1 million to acquire land for promised social housing.
The $5.9 million to combat homelessness will provide more secure financing for community organizations serving that clientele, said executive committee chairperson Dominique Ollivier.
The $10 million for anti-poverty measures will include renovation subsidies for buildings in need of repair, she said.
Climate change, downtown, business
The city will spend $4.1 million next year on measures to combat climate change. It will also start charging industries for water consumption starting in 2023. Blank invoices will be sent in 2022 to help owners and tenants of commercial properties understand the new measure.
The city will launch an inventory of parking lots outside the city centre with a view to expanding parking lot taxes in 2023.
The budget devotes $50 million to revitalizing the downtown economy, devastated by the pandemic.
The redesign of Ste-Catherine St. W. and McGill College Ave. will continue, with capital expenditures of $414.5 million in the next decade.
Businesses will again get a break in the form of a lower tax rate on the first $900,000 of property value, up from $750,000 last year. The measure will reduce taxes by an average of 16.5 per cent for 70 per cent of commercial properties.
Montreal is counting on a $65.8-million increase in welcome taxes, fuelled by the hot real-estate market during the pandemic.
With residential taxes going up by two per cent, the typical tax bill on a residential property (all types of dwellings), evaluated at $535,815, would increase by $83, or two per cent, to $4,261 in 2022.
On a typical single-family house, evaluated at $526,071, taxes would rise by $78 to $4,184.
Taxes on a typical condo valued at $361,255 would go up by just $7 to $2,873.
But individual tax bills may vary considerably, depending on the type of dwelling and the evolution of property values in different neighbourhoods.
Taxes on single-family homes will rise by 1.9 per cent, condos by 0.2 per cent, buildings with between two and five units by two per cent and buildings with six or more units by four per cent.
Asked whether the tax increase for multi-unit buildings could aggravate the housing crisis for tenants being hit by rent hikes and evictions, Ollivier noted that the administration plans to address those problems by creating a lease registry and requiring landlords to have apartment buildings certified.
“We’re hoping that these two tools together will help alleviate that question of renoviction,” she said.
Tax increases vary by borough
The boroughs that will see the biggest increase in residential taxes are Île-Bizard—Ste-Geneviève (5.1 per cent); Verdun and Plateau-Mont-Royal (three per cent); Sud-Ouest (2.9 per cent); Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Outremont (2.7 per cent) and Ville-Marie (2.6 per cent).
Increases will be smallest in Rivière-des-Prairies—Pointe-aux-Trembles (0.1 per cent); Montreal North (0.6 per cent); Anjou (one per cent); Ahuntsic-Cartierville (1.1 per cent); Mercier—Hochelaga—Maisonneuve (1.3 per cent); Lachine (1.4 per cent); Villeray—St-Michel—Parc-Extension (1.5 per cent); St-Laurent (1.6 per cent) and St-Léonard (1.8 per cent).
Thus, taxes on single-family homes in Île-Bizard—Ste-Geneviève will go up by 5.1 per cent on average, while in Montreal North, they’ll go up by just 0.1 per cent.
Condo taxes will go up the most in Île-Bizard—Ste-Geneviève (4.6 per cent), while they’ll decrease by two per cent in Montreal North.
Taxes on apartment buildings of six or more units will jump by 6.7 per cent in Ville-Marie, by 5.7 per cent in Île-Bizard—Ste-Geneviève, 5.2 per cent in Outremont and 4.9 per cent in Verdun.
Ensemble Montréal Leader Aref Salem charged the budget contains no relief for sectors of the economy most affected by the pandemic’s fifth wave, like cultural venues.
Rather than rushing to table the spending plan just before Christmas, the administration should have waited until January and devised measures to help businesses and the arts, he said.
“We’re calling on the administration to go back to the drawing board,” Salem said.
Montreal’s standing committee on finance and administration will hold public sessions on the budget from Jan. 6 to 14. It will come before city council for approval Jan. 24.