City considering vacant home tax for Toronto following housing meeting

Mar 31 2017, 3:32 pm

With housing availability and affordability a constant topic of discussion in Toronto, Mayor John Tory held a roundtable meeting on Thursday with financial and housing experts to discuss the issue.

Tory said that considering vacant home tax in Toronto might be explored, since there are currently 65,000 vacant homes in the city.

The roundtable discussions focused on empty homes and the impact it has on local housing.

“There is growing divide between those who can & cannot afford to live in Toronto. We must keep housing affordable & accessible,” said Tory.

With that, Tory said the City will be looking into the effect that vacant homes are having on our market and will report back.

“The data I have seen in this area, suggests that there are 65,000 vacant homes in Toronto,” Tory said, speaking to the media after the meeting. “We want those properties to be on the market available for people to own or to rent, because we don’t view housing as just another investment like something in the stock market. We view it as a scarcity that we have in the city for places for people to live.”

At this time, it is unclear how the city will determine homes are vacant. Tory said the City will explore the data, potentially through water and hydro, and “see patterns and go from there.”

“We must view housing first as a place to live, second as an investment,” Tory said, and chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat tweeted this, adding “Vacant home tax could address this.”

The sentiment was echoed throughout the meeting.

“As we create housing policy it is imperative that we look at housing as someone’s home and not as a commodity,” said councillor Ana Bailao.

While the City examines the empty homes in Toronto, Tory said that there is no consensus on one fix and a “range of solutions needed from all levels of government.” He also called on the province to match the leadership of the Feds on re-investing in housing supply.

The province has recently considered a foreign buyer tax to help cool down Toronto’s red hot real estate market, a move that the Toronto Real Estate Board said would do little to address the problem.

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