Denise Pettersson Simpson has been living in the bright yellow house on Mitchell Street since she was five.
The 72-year-old took the house over when her mom died in 1993 and has since lived in it, off and on, with her husband Robert Simpson, 93.
Simpson is a U.S. citizen and retired U.S. Army veteran, while Pettersson Simpson worked her entire life in the U.S. on permit and now retains her Canadian citizenship. The two have split their retired lives between their Mitchell Street home and San Antonio, Texas.
This year the couple was served a $6,000 bill for speculation tax due in part to their U.S. residency and to Simpson’s name on title. They live off of retirement pensions, including a tax free pension that Simpson receives for suffering career-ending injuries in battle.
They told the Oak Bay News they don’t know how they’ll be able to afford the house, especially if the speculation tax increases to two per cent, which foreign owners pay (both names are on the house title).
“The speculation tax doesn’t go far enough,” Pettersson Simpson said. “I imagine there are a lot of retired people who can’t afford this tax, people who are on retirement income. Unless you’re really wealthy, then it doesn’t matter.”
In other words, the speculation and vacancy tax squeezes the middle class out of their retirement plan but not the upper class who can afford it.
“Our mortgages are paid off,” Pettersson Simpson said. “There’s no reason we can’t own two houses. We paid for them. I want to keep my childhood home.
“It’s telling Americans that they are not welcome unless they spend a whole ton of money.”
The most prominent solution to the speculation and vacancy tax is to rent out the house. Not only do the two not rent out their house, at this stage in their life, they can barely comprehend the idea. They tend visit for about four to eight weeks at a time.
If they wanted to, they would have planned for it decades ago. The house is full of their personal effects — Pettersson Simpson regularly boxes and sells or donates things from the house — and they’re not in a position in their life to start new, Pettersson Simpson said.
“It doesn’t prevent speculation, people with money can still speculate,” she said.
The house and land are valued at $1.2 million by B.C. Assessment, yet the house is only valued at $218,000.
“If I tore it down I wouldn’t have to pay the tax,” she said.
In her eyes, that would be speculation.
“There’s a lot of retired people who are in similar situation. We can’t rent it now, there’s nowhere to put everything, we have to start getting rid of stuff. This is not what we had planned on.
Simpson pointed out they’ve already weathered 25 years of rising property taxes.
“I hope others who are retired and in this position can speak up,” she said.