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'They cause blight in the neighbourhood': Council approves vacant house tax

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Windsor, Ont. -

The City of Windsor is putting owners of vacant homes on notice.

City of Windsor chief building official John Revell said the new vacant home tax will be another useful tool for the city.

“Largely aimed at speculators who are sitting on properties and holding them in hopes the values go up and they can resell them to make a quick profit and don’t have to bother too much renovating the house or dealing with tenants,” Revell said.

“Often times these vacant homes are left to rot. They cause blight in the neighbourhood, they cause rodent infestation because they are not taken care of, they are not activated,” says Ward 2 councillor Fabio Costante.

Council voted during 2022 budget deliberations to have administration move forward with a vacant house tax proposed by Costante.

“This is one lever at our disposal to start encouraging more housing in our community,” he says.

The city has identified 165 residential properties that are currently designated as vacant. These properties include 30 owned by the company which controls the Ambassador Bridge.

Costante says it’s one way to address the affordable housing crisis by encouraging owners to sell or lower rents to find tenants.

 “The CTC, the out-of-town landlord, the property owner that is not caring for their home, they are on notice now and we have this lever at our disposal and council unanimously endorsed it and I am looking forward to its roll out,” says Costante.

Properties that sit empty for more than 90 days will be hit.

“We have a shortage of housing, and rents are increasing and house prices are increasing so it’s market driven. So we would like to see properties back and available for people to live in. We’d like to see homes that need to be repaired, repaired and in a good state,” says Revell. 

The tax could range between 1-2 per cent of the assessed value of the home.

“In real dollars we are looking at somewhere in the range of $2,000-$3,000 per property could be the added penalty in addition to paying property taxes already,” says Costante. “In addition, other penalties we could impose if they fail to register or if they try to abdicate the responsibilities through this new directive.”

The Downtown Mission feels this is good news.

“There are so many people out there that can’t find an affordable apartment or home or anything like that so to have extra opportunity would be wonderful,” says interim executive director Rukshini Ponniah-Goulin.

 “It’s a critical piece of the overall puzzle enforcing property standards and creating more opportunity for safe and accessible housing,” says Costante.

A consultation period will be held in the coming months to address issues such as longer term absences and ongoing renovations before a bylaw takes effect.

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