03/18/2014 11:23 EDT | Updated 05/18/2014 05:59 EDT

High Mile End property taxes drive seniors out of homes

Mile End homeowners say skyrocketing property values and corresponding taxes are making it harder and harder for them to stay in their homes.

Martin Duckworth bought his Mile End home for $30,000 37 years ago, at a time when the area looked very different.

“It was mainly an immigrant area, a working-class area. There were a lot of artists,” Duckworth, a documentary filmmaker, said.

He raised his three children there, calling the neighbourhood a great place to raise a family due to its proximity to green and outdoor activity spaces.

But the 80-year-old’s property assessment rose by 43 per cent this year, driving up his taxes by 7.2 per cent along with it.

He said developers are to blame for building so much new housing, which they rent out for high sums of money -- driving up property values and driving out longtime residents.

“If I didn’t have children who have professional jobs and help support us, we’d be out of here,” he said.

Duckworth was among a group of about 100 residents who met at the Rialto theatre on Monday to ask the city to freeze their already-high taxes.

Pierre Pagé, spokesman for citizens’ group Montreal For All, said skyrocketing property assessments are falsely inflated.

Property values falsely inflated?

“It’s not reality, because many experts say the assessments are 20 per cent too high — it’s over-evaluated,” said Pagé. He himself has had an average tax increase of an average of $350 a year over the past four years.

“The people who don’t have a pension, or have revenues that are fixed or going down, well they’re thinking of moving,” he continued.

Pagé said his group is asking the city to help out senior citizens who can’t afford to stay in their homes if tax rates keep going up the way they have been. He said a number of U.S. cities have recently signed on to measures to protect long-term residents, and wants the same for Montreal.

But Pierre Desrochers, the head of Montreal’s executive committee, said taxes really haven’t gone up all that much in the recently released budget.

“We truly wanted to limit the fiscal impact on all the citizens of Montreal,” Desrochers said. “I think we achieved that.”

He said the property value assessments are a way to distribute costs more evenly among homeowners.

“This is still the best way to do it,” Desrochers said.