City will draft bylaw to tax vacant homes

This article, from July 5, has details on the introduction and drafting of a bylaw to tax vacant homes, pending the approval of city council.

Hello Ward 8 Neighbours,

In an effort to increase the amount of rental properties available within Hamilton, the City of Hamilton will be drafting a bylaw on taxing vacant homes, pending the approval of city council.

For more details, please continue reading below…

At the general issues committee meeting on Monday, the decision to draft a bylaw passed on a vote of 10 to two, with two councillors abstaining. If approved at council, staff will report back to the GIC  with a draft and then reach out to the public for further consultation.

This comes on the heels of news that a Toronto developer plans to buy single-family homes in cities such as Hamilton and rent them out. Hamilton also ranks as North America’s third least affordable city in a report from Oxford Economics.

As reported by CBC Hamilton, annual operating costs for the program would likely fall between $1 million and $1.3 million.

While revenues depend on the tax rate and the number of properties impacted, the minimum estimates provided in a city report on vacant properties range from $800,000 to $1.6 million. 

According to the CBC, owners whose properties are vacant — though some are exempted —  must register them on a city registry. It costs $297 to register, and inspection costs amount to $840 a year. There is the possibility of a fine for owners who do not report a vacant property.

The city told the CBC it’s alerted to empty properties by complaints and municipal law enforcement. It knows of 325 vacant buildings, of which 221 are residential.

According to Monica Ciriello, director of licensing and bylaw services, 183 are single-family dwellings, 11 are duplexes, and 27 are multiple dwellings. 

Those numbers do not include vacant units within otherwise occupied buildings.

The city said it could implement a mandatory property declaration to identify an accurate number. That declaration would be required in order to roll out the potential tax on vacant homes. 

The City also provided two estimates for revenues based on the average assessed property value of $381,000. 

Taxing 221 vacant residential properties at a rate of 1 or 2 per cent, the city said, would mean revenues between  $800,000 to $1.6 million. 

But if 0.5 per cent of the approximate 176,500 residential properties were vacant, that same tax rate would mean between $3.3 million and $6.7 million in revenue. 

Using revenue for housing initiatives 

Staff told the GIC that a city like Vancouver — which has implemented a tax since 2017 — uses revenue for initiatives that aim to “improve living conditions and increase the supply of affordable housing.”

Vancouver has generated “significant revenues” of around $36 million plus penalties and fines, he said. It also “accomplished the goals” by reducing vacant properties from around 2,500 to approximately 1,900.

Ottawa recently approved moving forward with a vacant residential unit tax and is looking at doing the same thing, CBC Hamilton reports 

Toronto approved a home tax plan to start in 2022 and a report with more details will go before a city committee this week. 

Questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our office here.