Sometimes we need to take time to celebrate a victory. The proposed vacant property tax cleared a huge hurdle at City Hall this week.
On June 1st, 2021, HCA members Cheryl Parrott and Anne Hanna spoke at City FEDCO Committee (with another of Jake Hanna’s videos) supporting the City staff recommendations to implement a tax on vacant properties. It passed unanimously and will go to City Council next week. Staff will then draft the by-laws and request authority from the province to do so. They hope to have it in place for next year – 2022.
A City survey’s response was very supportive of the proposed tax. Hintonburg had the highest response rate in town. Appended below for your convenience is the text of a letter sent to FEDCO in advance of their latest meeting.
Kudos to Cheryl and Anne for their hard work on this file.
May 31, 2021
Re: Residential Vacant Unit Tax.
Mayor Watson Members of FEDCO Members of Council
The Hintonburg Community Assocation wholeheartedly supports this proposal to implement a residential vacant unit tax and we are very supportive of the proposed timelines. The sooner this happens the better.
Ottawa has been experiencing a housing crisis for a number of years now and the pandemic made this much more visible and pressing.
In Nov. 2020 we presented at CPS budget debate. At that time there were 8 vacant buildings within 1 block of the newly opened Tom Brown Arena Respite Centre providing services to the homeless and precariously housed. There were also a number of homeless encampments along the Trillium line – all within 2 blocks of these 8 vacant buildings.
The starkness of homeless people getting daytime warmth inside Tom Brown when steps away are vacant buildings that were perfectly good housing. Some of these buildings were rooming houses – the only affordable housing many can afford.
Six of these buildings were in good shape, where many people lived (at least 2 were rooming houses). They were evicted for grand redevelopment schemes. That was from 1 to 8 years ago. Six of these buildings are still boarded, full of weeds, garbage left around or dumped.
At least 4 of these buildings were broken into by homeless people seeking shelter. Fire is a huge concern for neighbours as people try to keep warm.
There are many more buildings within Hintonburg that have been vacant for years. The report indicates City staff estimate 750 to 3000 empty units – that is a much bigger problem than we thought.
We have worked hard to try to ensure that vacant properties are on the City list – a number of them were not on the list in Nov. even though they had been vacant for years. The one City staff person tasked with follow-up on all these properties cannot keep up.
We completely agree that implementation of a residential vacant unit tax would help ensure that property owners remain motivated to keep rental units or return vacant units into the market supply. This would help to ensure eviction does not happen until redevelopment is approved and construction is ready to start.
We support the denial of an exemption for orders that declare a unit uninhabitable due to the owner’s inaction. Demolition by neglect is not an uncommon problem and is happening in Hintonburg.
We urge you:
– to accept the staff recommendation and to quickly implement this so that it can be assessed on properties for the 2022 tax year.
– to direct staff to assess whether using information from the water department and /or hydro Ottawa to flag “no usage” could be useful in assessing vacancy for audit purposes. Many of the properties that we reported for addition on the vacant property list have had their hydro disconnected for several years, one would assume that water had also been disconnected when hydro was disconnected.
Cheryl Parrott Wayne Rodney Co-Chairs, Security Committee, Hintonburg Community Association
Cc: Roger Chapman, Director By-Law & Regulatory Services