Mayor, Councillor McKenney eye vacancy tax on empty residential units in Ottawa

A new tax could soon be imposed on vacant residential units in Ottawa, with the money supporting affordable housing.

Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Catherine McKenney will introduce a motion at Wednesday's council meeting asking city staff to study the feasibility of imposing a property tax on the assessment of vacant residential units.

"This would allow the city to invest more dollars into affordable housing,"

said Watson.

Staff would be asked to report back in the spring on the feasibility and viability of implementing a property tax on vacant residential units.

At next week’s Council meeting, I will be bringing forward a motion, seconded by @cmckenney to study the power to impose a property tax on the assessment of vacant residential units in Ottawa. This would allow the City to invest more dollars into affordable housing. pic.twitter.com/xspLedZknr

— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa)December 4, 2020

During the 2021 budget debate at the Community and Protective Services Committee, the Hintonburg Community Associated proposed the city impose a tax on vacant property.

The association said the tax would reduce speculation from taking affordable housing off the market before development.

Cheryl Parrot told CTV News Ottawa she is tired of chasing developers to maintain their properties and thinks theses vacant residences could help relieve the crisis in affordable housing the city is dealing with.

"This is a problem because they get broken into; there’s constant graffiti; there’s weeds; there’s garbage; and then it‘s constant calls to the city to 311, then a property standards order is issued," Parrot said.

"Maybe it gets looked after then two weeks later we are back at it again."

Councillor Mathieu Fleury told CTV Morning Live that the city removed a 30 per cent tax break the province had for vacant properties and they have instituted added fees when complaints are lodged against landlords, but the city has limited tools and staffing to deal with the problem.

"My understanding is we don’t have the tools to force an additional tax on vacancies," Fleury said. "As a city we have a bigger issue here let’s regroup lets develop a working plan, if we need changes provincially to the tools we have as a municipality let’s ask for those."

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