Hamilton vacant homes tax a step closer to reality

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Published July 6, 2021 at 1:36 am

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The City Hamilton, which has the third-least affordable housing in North America, could soon have a vacant homes tax.

On Monday, city councillors voted to approve the drafting of a bylaw on taxing vacant homes during a meeting of the general issues committee. The decision came after they received a report that there are at least 221 registered dwellings that are vacant, along with an untold number of unoccupied units within otherwise occupied buildings. The report also stated that the expected cost of running the program annually, which is in the $1 to $1.3 million range, would be offset by tax revenue collected.

Ward 3 City Councillor Nrinder Nann introduced the motion, which carried with a 10-2 vote. Wards 5 and 6 councillors Chad Collins and Tom Jackson opposed. Wards 4 and 10 councillors Sam Merulla and Maria Pearson abstained.

The draft bylaw would require community consultation before councillors hold a vote. At Monday’s meeting, city staff suggested the bylaw, if passed, could take effect in September 2022.

Oxford Economics recently stated that Hamilton is the third-least affordable city in North America, in terms of housing prices relative to average income. The Smart Prosperity Institute also released a report recently that said there has been an “exodus” of young families from the city over the last five years.

Hamilton had a vacancy rate of about 3.5 per cent as of January, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. 

Vancouver implemented a vacant homes tax in 2017. Elsewhere in Ontario, Ottawa’s city council voted last month to create a vacant homes tax. Toronto is likely to pass one on Tuesday (July 6). 

 

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