Canada

AGAR: Toronto’s proposed vacant homes tax an attack on property owners

The City of Toronto is once again threatening a vacant homes tax.

As Bryan Passifiume reported, “the HousingTO 2020-2030 action plan resurrects the possibility of placing a levy on empty, unoccupied homes and condos in the city.”

The drive behind the move is that housing demand outstrips supply in Toronto and housing is expensive.

Mayor John Tory says, “In Vancouver (the tax) has led to thousands of additional units of housing coming back into the marketplace. You also have to take into account that neighbourhoods and condo buildings become less healthy and less safe as is the case when you have many empty condos/houses. We get complaints about that.”

What does a 1% tax mean? Based on the cost of housing in Toronto, if you own a home that no one lives in at the moment, you will pay thousands of dollars in new taxes.

It also means, based on experience in Vancouver that the value of everyone’s home will drop.

An Ontario government report, “Increasing Housing Supply in Ontario,” reads, “Government-imposed costs also make it more difficult and expensive to develop new housing. There is a need to balance efforts to lower the costs of development with building and maintaining vital public infrastructure.”

Make it easier to rent out a basement suite.

Help people get in to homes by adopting a practice from the United States that allows homeowners to deduct mortgage interest costs from personal income tax.

Better, safer neighborhoods are built with caring policy, not a boot in the butt.

Taxes are not supposed to be a weapon for lazy policy makers.

That might be welcomed by people wanting to buy, but it is actually the government attacking people who already own; people who count on home value as part of their retirement.

City Hall doesn’t pay the mortgage, or the electric bill and private property rights should be better respected by elected officials than they are.

Also, based on Vancouver, once that tax is in place it is easy and tempting for them to raise it. Vancouver did so by 25%.

At a time when everyone’s freedoms are under attack it is an egregious bridge too far for the city to further erode the concept of private ownership and the rights of homeowners.

There are better ways to solve problems than to use a tax. Drop the stick and pick up a carrot.

Landlords are afraid to rent out their properties because in Ontario once a bad tenant gets in, refuses to pay rent or causes damage, the owner is met with many months of frustrating bureaucratic foot-dragging before the situation is resolved.

I know a couple who own one condo unit. They are not big property owners. Their tenant is $15,000 in arrears and it has taken 8 months to get a second date to talk about it with bureaucrats.

Landlords feel that government defers too much on the side of the tenant over the person with the investment.

Fix that. Restore landlord rights and confidence.

Attack the supply and demand issue by cutting red tape.

Real estate developer Tridel wrote of municipal planning, “it takes five years to do municipal comprehensive review so delays from policy alignment are a reality. Zoning updates could take another three years on top of that.”

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