Many Canberra homeowners are facing rates bills that have jumped 60 per cent or more in just four years.
Among the hardest hit suburbs are Aranda, Red Hill, Yarralumla and Campbell, where rates are up at least 62 per cent since the ACT government began its program to abolish stamp duty for home buyers and replace the revenue with rates.
In Red Hill, the average rates bill is up about $1700 in four years, to $4330, an increase of 64 per cent.
Aranda residents, also, have been hit by fast-rising rates bills, up about $1000, or 62 per cent, in four years, to $2610 from July.
The government is increasing rates in a 20-year program, which began in 2012, to phase out stamp duty. Four years in, the impact for homeowners is becoming clear.
On average, rates are up 42 per cent, or $540, across the city over the four years, from $1280 to $1820. But rates increases hit individual homeowners differently, because they are based on land values, averaged over three years. This means that people in suburbs where land values have risen faster than average face bigger increases in rates, and where property values are subdued or going backwards, rates increases are also lower than average.
Increases over four years range from about 30 per cent to about 65 per cent.
In the coming year, the inner north faces the biggest increases in rates, with Downer topping the list (a 12.6 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16). McKellar in Belconnen has the lowest rates increase, up an average 7 per cent year on year.
But over four years, McKellar residents have faced an increase in rates of 47 per cent, or about $580, and will pay an average $1815 from July.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said rates increases should be seen in the context of cuts to stamp duty and insurance taxes and changes to land tax. Over four years, the increase in all four taxes had been 13.6 per cent, or 3.2 per cent a year. The government would collect $757 million from those taxes in the coming budget, $90 million more than four years ago.
"These reforms are revenue-neutral, which means the government doesn't collect more, it just collects it more efficiently," he said, pointing to a saving of $200 in insurance for the average homeowner.
He also pointed to a rate cut in the first year for about one quarter of properties. And he said future rate increases would be lower than 9 per cent a year, given the abolition of insurance tax next year.
Liberal Leader Jeremy Hanson said while the government had rejected the Liberals' claims at the last election that rates were set to triple over 20 years under the Labor government, they would triple in much less time if they continued going up at current rates.
And he said while rates were intended to replace stamp duty, stamp duty revenue was still set to increase each year, with $260 million forecast for 2018-19.
But Mr Hanson has not said whether he would reverse the rates increases if he won government, nor whether he will keep stamp duty.
"I would anticipate that it may stay in some form," he said of stamp duty."What we would look for is a fairer balance between stamp duty and rates and it may mean therefore that stamp duty remains in some form."
Mr Hanson said the Liberals would release their tax policy closer to the election, but year-on-year rates hikes were not fair, and people on low or fixed incomes "simply can't afford it".
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