Hickory Drive Explosion Victims Must Pay Property Tax on Uninhabitable Mississauga Homes
Mississauga residents who are still displaced months after the Hickey Drive double suicide explosion just found out that they’re still on the hook for property taxes.
For the most part, Mississauga is a relatively safe community free from unprecedented circumstances that affect quality of life. Last year’s explosion was certainly an exception to that rule. Something unprecedented happened and people were forced to evacuate their homes for an extended period of time.
As of this writing, some 33 families are still affected eight months later. After dealing with their insurance companies, mortgages and condo corporations, the last thing people need to hear is that they still have to pay property taxes on the homes they’re currently not living in and not being allowed back into.
Mississauga City Council has chosen not to waive property taxes for those residents displaced by the Hickory explosion.
City council has the power to waive those taxes, but have chosen not to do so. People may have expected Mayor Bonnie Crombie to make an exception in this case, but she did not, insisting that the city still has to maintain the properties and that the province should establish a relief fund to help the victims with any financial hardship their property taxes are presenting.
Crombie was interviewed this morning by Newstalk (CFRB) 1010 host John Moore and when asked why the city was doing something that seemed “mean spirited,” she said that there’s no precedent to waive property taxes, even in the event of a disaster.
“First, let me say how sorry I am for the victims, my heart goes out to them. This has been a terrible tragedy and we’ve done all we can for them. The city, for our part, has done whatever we can to assist them. We’ve waived permit fees, applications fees. We’ve waived all late payments, their MPAC reassessment fees…they can be reassessed to lower their property taxes. We’ve waived stormwater fees, we expedited all their building permits to help them get back in their homes.”
“But with respect to your question on what we have done, we believe there is still value to the property that is standing and there are still costs for the city to service that property, whether it’s to provide fire, water or snow removal, policing, etc.”
Mayor Crombie also emphasized her and council’s stance that municipalities need property taxes to generate revenue—something that some might argue sounds a little miserly, given the circumstances.
Crombie also pointed out that the city has never waived property taxes, even when residents have lost their homes to floods and fires. To be fair, there really is no precedent for forgiving taxes in the event of a disaster. Although there’s a point to be made about consistency, it’s also important to ask how often people are expelled from their homes for months because of an intentional explosion.
To her credit, Crombie did outline some other options besides waiving property taxes for these displaced people.
Crombie suggested the province could set up disaster relief fund, or use provisions in the Ontario Disaster Relief Act. She argued that perhaps an MPP could introduce a Private Member’s Bill to waive property taxes.
But even the local MPP said the Municipal Act gives local governments the tools they need to effectively serve their citizens, meaning she basically kicked this ball back into the hands of Mississauga City Council.
To her credit, Mississauga Ward 3 councillor Chris Fonseca tweeted that she is planning to put a motion forward today in General Committee to provide a grant to displaced Hickory residents. In a statement made to Insauga, she said the 2016 taxes leveled on the residents are $179,835.84. Through reassessment, the displaced residents have received $33,435.18 back. Fonseca is asking for a grant for total property taxes from time of displacement to time of occupancy not just the reassessed amount.
@NEWSTALK1010 my motion is to provide a grant for residents displaced from the Hickory explosion.— Chris Fonseca (@Chris_Fonseca3) March 1, 2017
This Mississauga council has shown incredible solidarity in terms of sticking together on various issues, so this doesn’t seem too unusual. I’ll give Fonseca kudos on this bit of political maneuvering and putting forward a good solid alternative, but since Crombie said she doesn’t expect this to pass, the motion doesn’t appear terribly encouraging.
Nevertheless, the displaced people of Hickory have gone through enough. It will be June three months from now, and if this issue continue to linger on a year later, I will not blame people if they do start picking up metaphorical pitchforks and storm the Civic Centre.
To listen to the interview, click here.
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