Proposed vacant property tax would fund affordable housing

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By Nick Seebruch
Proposed vacant property tax would fund affordable housing

CORNWALL, Ontario – A proposed tax on vacant residential and commercial properties would be used to fund affordable housing initiatives in the City of Cornwall, said Councillor Syd Gardiner, who proposed the initative.

Gardiner explained that the tax would be “used to motivate owners of empty and under used homes to rent out their properties and increase housing supply.”

“I think it is time we move on vacant storefronts, especially ones that have been vacant for years,” said Councillor Elaine MacDonald.

Councillor Gardiner’s idea is based on similar taxes that have been proposed in cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. As an example, in Toronto, a property that has been vacant for six months of the tax year is subject to this tax, which is also based on three per cent of the assessed value of the property.

Some Councillors had reservations about going down this road however.

“I understand the intent of the motion. Especially for Vancouver and Toronto,” said Councillor Justin Towndale, who raised his concerns around punishing commercial property owners. “I don’t think this is the time to put something like this in, and I don’t think we are the right size for this.”

Towndale said that instead of a tax, he would rather see more municipal programs that encourage property renovation and improvement.

Council agreed to send this idea to administration for a report on what such a tax might look like. Councillors Justin Towndale and Claude McIntosh voted against the motion.

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