Please find below a video and letter presented to the Community and Protective Services Committee of City Council today requesting a Vacancy tax and stricter by-laws to deal with the issue of properties left vacant for speculative development reasons.
Nov. 18, 2020
Members of CPS Committee
Members of Council
There are 8 vacant buildings within 1 block of Tom Brown Arena which has recently become a Respite Centre providing services to the homeless and precariously housed. Six of these buildings were in good shape, where many people lived. They were evicted for grand redevelopment schemes. That was 1 to 8 years ago. Seven of these buildings are boarded, full of weeds, garbage left around or dumped. Two of the buildings will end as “demolition by neglect”.
These are just the buildings within 1 block of Tom Brown, there are many more in Hintonburg (50 we were told) and even more in Centretown (100 we were told). Buildings bought for speculation and development, not maintained, broken into, a fire risk, yards full of garbage and weeds all with a homelessness crisis in the City.
The starkness of homeless people getting daytime warmth inside Tom Brown when steps away are buildings that were perfectly good housing boarded up. Some of these buildings were rooming houses – the only housing many on assistance can afford. Instead there are homeless camps along the Trillium pathway. This is a disgrace.
The end result of these boarded buildings – neighbours are forced to make call, after call to the City to try to stop them from being total eyesores and going up in flames.
All these calls cost an incredible amount of tax dollars. The cost of managing vacant derelict properties, many times a year for years on end, is enormous. Calls to 311, Property Standards/By-Law, Police, Building Code Services sometimes Fire. All of these over and over and over again. In 2013 the Mayor and councillors said the City was going to crackdown on owners of vacant derelict properties “bylaw enforcement on buildings in disrepair will include making sure woodwork is painted, roofs are properly upheld, broken windows are fixed promptly, and debris and garbage are cleared from the property”. That is not happening. A number of years ago at budget time the City proudly announced a full time Property Standards officer to deal with these buildings. It hasn’t gotten better it has gotten much worse as the number of properties in the central part of the City has skyrocketed.
Thirteen years ago we spoke at budget about a New Westminster by-law that charged back the cost of calls for excessive service on problem properties (Police, By-law, Fire). At that time they charged $200 per call, this started after a grace period of more than 3 calls in a year. A year was given for owners/landlords to find a solution to the issues to prevent the constant calls from recurring. Staff costs in Ottawa thirteen years later would be similar.
It is time to stop the revolving door of complaints on these properties. It is time to implement a Vacant Building tax just as has been done successfully in Vancouver and Winnipeg and hopefully soon to be implemented in Toronto. There must be a disincentive to leaving residential buildings vacant, especially during a homeless crisis.
A 1.25% or higher yearly tax on the assessed value of the property would be an incentive not to leave properties vacant. In other cities this has helped and the proceeds from the tax have been used to help build affordable housing.
The requirement to apply for a vacant property permit and a yearly inspection fee on any vacant properties should also be implemented. These would help to offset some of the enormous costs of the City trying vainly to manage these properties and the money could go into truly affordable housing.
If enabling legislation from the province is required then ask for it. This issue has gone on far too long.
People sleeping outside in November weather 1 to 2 blocks from perfectly good boarded buildings should not be happening.
Cheryl Parrott Wayne Rodney
Co-Chairs, Security Committee Hintonburg Community Association
Cc: Councillor Jeff Leiper
Roger Chapman, Director By-Law & Regulatory Services