Skyrocketing property evaluations

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Tashi Farmilo
Local Journalism Initiative

MRC PONTIAC – Pontiac residents are grappling with steep increases in property taxes following recent reevaluations of property values. The increases have come as a shock to many in one of Quebec’s poorest MRCs, where municipal services are limited.

Mansfield is one of the hardest hit areas. Local homeowner Hilde Noll expressed her dismay as the assessed value of her property on Chemin de la Chute soared from $7,900 to $157,900, a 2,000% increase. “We’re in a rural area; this isn’t the French Riviera!” Noll exclaimed, questioning the basis for the new ‘probable market value’ assessments.

Noll isn’t alone. Other residents have reported similar hikes, with evaluations for some cottages along the Coulonge River jumping from $45,600 to $232,500.
Mansfield isn’t the only municipality affected. Dale Shutt, who owns a home in Shawville, told the Journal: “My evaluation doubled. It’s gone up too high – however, it was too low. So, I can’t complain completely, although it raised my taxes by 30%, which is a lot,”

Mansfield Mayor Sandra Armstrong and Director General Éric Rochon explained the evaluation process. “Every three years, [a firm hired by the MRC] evaluates every house, and it’s out of our hands,” Armstrong stated. The current evaluator is Carl Provencher from the Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM).

Evaluations are based on market value, which is determined by sales in the area and other economic factors. “If you live in a sector where [many] houses are sold, your evaluation goes up,” Rochon noted. He said the COVID pandemic impacted property values, with houses selling at prices well above their previous evaluations.

Location is another crucial factor. Properties in appealing locations, such as those near the Coulonge River, have seen substantial increases in value. Inflation and new construction or renovations also play a role in driving up property values. Newly built homes or those that have undergone significant renovations tend to have higher market values, which in turn affects evaluations in the area.

Residents who disagree with their property assessment can request a review, a process that may eventually involve the Administrative Tribunal of Québec. The municipality has forms available for those seeking a revision, and the MRC’s evaluation department handles the reviews.

For those struggling financially due to the tax increases, the municipality offers arrangements such as installment payments. “We’re always at full speed to try to help out residents as best as we can, and we guarantee privacy,” Armstrong assured.

From the FQM’s perspective, the assessment rolls are crafted at the request of MRC Pontiac, which is the responsible evaluation body. “The FQM compiles property evaluation rolls for the MRC’s municipalities,” a representative explained, emphasizing property evaluations are based on market values determined by sales trends and other economic factors in the area​​.

Real estate agent Sébastien Bonnerot detailed the market dynamics affecting property valuations, reenphasizing how the pandemic led to a significant increase in demand for vacation homes. “This is the first year of a new roll and values are based on the previous three years of sales. What’s happening now is a backlash of what happened in COVID, where property pricing doubled or tripled in the Pontiac due to high demand,” Bonnerot explained. He said the market has since stabilized, but evaluations are reflecting peak values from the pandemic, leading to higher property taxes​.

The MRC was unable to provide any answers by the time of publication, stating they’re still waiting for information from the FQM. Tim Ferrigan, MRC property assessment manager, met with the FQM to discuss some of the Mansfield property evaluations the last week in March, but no information has emerged from that meeting.