A public meeting was held on Tuesday evening as the city continues to seek out feedback from the public on whether or not to introduce a tax on the owners of the estimated 28,000 vacant homes in Toronto.
In May, the provincial government introduced a package of legislation aimed at slowing down a rapid rise in real estate prices in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
The legislation included a 15 per cent tax on residential properties bought by owners who aren't citizens or permanent residents and the elimination of a loophole that had previously exempted the owners of newer buildings from having to adhere to rent control guidelines.
The legislation also permitted Toronto to implement a tax on vacant properties, similar to one put into place in Vancouver last year. That tax charges owners of vacant residential properties one per cent of their home's assessed value annually. A vacant home is defined as one that is unoccupied for more than 180 days per year.
City council, however, has not yet approved the introduction of a tax on the owners of vacant properties in Toronto. In July, council voted to ask staff to report back on whether the city should implement such a tax and how the tax could be administered.
As part of that work, a public meeting is being held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at city hall.
At the meeting, city councillors told reporters that this is just the beginning of the discussion as actual enforceable tax would not be put into effect until at least the New Year.
“We are trying to make a policy where we look as houses not as a commodity but as somebody’s home,” Coun. Ana Bailao, who serves as the city’s housing advocate, told CP24 ahead of the meeting. “When you have a housing crisis like we have in our city, with low vacancy rates for rentals and where the supply for people wanting to buy isn’t enough, you need to bring every house into the fold and having 28,000 locked up doesn’t make any sense.”
According to a press release, the city is considering three options for how it would identify the owners of vacant properties for the purpose of a tax.
Those options include a self-reporting model, a complaints-based model and a system in which all owners would be required to declare the occupancy status of their property.
Bailao told CP24 that a tax on vacant homes is “not about bringing in millions for the city” and rather is strictly geared at boosting the supply of homes on the rental and re-sale markets.
“Let’s bring these homes on board and make them available for rental or for ownership sooner rather than later and in an easy and practical way,” she said.
Mayor Tory has previously mused about the possibility of identifying vacant homes through Toronto Hydro data but the new release says that privacy rights prohibit “the use of personal or private information such as water or hydro meter data” for that purpose.
In addition to tonight’s public meeting, the city has also launched an online survey that is available until Sept. 5 to gather further input on the implementation of a vacant home tax.