Vacant Home Tax plan being designed for Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Halton Hills


Published April 21, 2022 at 4:40 pm

The Vacant Homes Tax staff report received unanimous support at Halton Regional Council. INSAUGA PHOTO

A staff report on a vacant homes tax in Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hill received unanimous support at Halton Regional Council.

The Vacant Homes Tax would see a one per cent tax charged on vacant residential units.

A feasibility assessment indicated the policy can be effective in improving housing affordability. The positive net revenues from the Vacant Homes Tax can be used to fund assisted housing priorities.

The staff report found at the one per cent tax rate, more than $4 million a year would be raised. Money that could be used to fund new community housing.

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton wondered if the tax rate shouldn’t be higher. He said that limited to one per cent it won’t motivate owners of vacant homes to stop holding them empty.

“I hope that some work could be done by next year to examine the impact and effectiveness of much higher than the one to three per cent range,” said Burton “If we fail to get most of them (vacant homes) occupied, over 10 years four million a year would come close to 40 million dollars and 40 million dollars would go a long way to assisting the plans of the Halton Community Housing Corporation to increase community housing which we also have a strong need for.”

Milton Ward 1 Halton Regional Colin Best expressed concern over why the building industry is not building homes that have already been approved.

Concerns, he says, that came up in Milton’s allocation update.

“There are 6,000 units of all types that have been approved, but have not been built anywhere from three to 10 years,” said Best, who says he received the information from his Town’s planning and building department.

“I understand from (Mayor Bonnie) Crombie in Mississauga there’s over 60,000 units that have been approved over the last few years that haven’t even started construction.”

Burton also asked Mike Moffat, the senior director of policy and innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI), during the meeting why someone would sit on not building.

He wondered what would be builder’s motive not building homes that have been approved and brought up an economic theory that there could be the possibility of a player sitting on supply in order to advantage himself.

“Let’s point out the mayors of the GTA have provided data that there’s a quarter million of these homes approved but nobody proceeding on developer’s side,” the Oakville mayor said. “I noticed that the task force took no interest in that submission from the mayors.

“I did notice that Ontario government acknowledged in their response and their presentation around Bill 109 (Ontario’s More Homes for Everyone Act) that they would look for ways to encourage builders to build the unbuilt.

“So we gained some traction with that issue.”

Moffat said Burton’s economic theory is certainly possible, but more data is required.

“Let’s figure out what’s going on and if there are high levels of speculative activity that’s preventing building,” he said. “Let’s design some policy moves to address that.”

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