CTV News: Would an extra tax on vacant residential properties ease London's housing crisis?

Posted August 27, 2021

LONDON, ONT. - A political push is underway to have city council consider applying some financial pressure on land speculators who buy residential properties but leave them vacant.

In a letter to their council colleagues, Councillor Shawn Lewis and Councillor Elizabeth Peloza ask civic administration to prepare a report on the feasibility of implementing a ‘vacant residential property tax.’

“In this market, if you can’t find a tenant -- you aren’t trying to find a tenant,” asserts Lewis. “The bylaw office is actively monitoring about 100 vacant properties that they know of -- so how many more properties are out there?”

“It makes me very sad, and angry at the same time,” says Samantha Lawrence of tenant advocacy group ACORN London about the number of units lost from the local housing market by speculators.

“We’re all for the tax. It would push investors to actually do something and fill (the units),” Lawrence adds.

In 2017, Vancouver launched an Empty Homes Tax on residential units unoccupied for greater than six months.

Recently the rate was hiked from 1.25 per cent to three per cent annually.

Vancouver’s tax is not applied to recently sold homes, or those undergoing construction.

Lewis admits there are many details that will need to be worked out in London, so seeking a report from city staff is an essential first step.

“We need to figure out how long it can be unoccupied before this charge would come into place, (and) operationally how do we monitor that kind of situation,” he explains.

The report would also consider the unique situation of part-time London residents including snowbirds and students.

Lewis says the goal is to motivate land speculators to return residential properties to the housing market, and any net revenue generated should be earmarked for the housing crisis.

“If we had extra revenue, it would be my preference that that money get invested back into our public housing.”

The request for a report will go to council’s Corporate Services Committee on August 30.

 

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Article by Daryl Newcombe for CTV News

 

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