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Tax on vacant residences could help get more housing on the market

June 9, 2021
Council Updates

City Council today directed staff to develop a tax regime for a vacant unit tax program to be implemented in 2022, with billing to start in 2023. The tax would help increase Ottawa’s housing supply by encouraging homeowners to occupy or rent their properties. The revenue generated would be used to support affordable housing programs.

Staff will bring forward a report for the tax regime that would see owners of residential properties left vacant more than half the year pay a tax of about one per cent of the property’s value as part of their final property tax bill. The tax would not apply to an owner’s principal residence.

Council received a report outlining City parking management activities in 2020 that notes a 7.8-per-cent decrease in operating expenses from the year prior – a saving of $1.12 million. The difference is due primarily to higher winter maintenance costs in 2019. While parking generated $8.9 million in revenue, reduced demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic means those revenues were down $8.2 million from the previous year. The City has allocated $7.9 million from the Province’s Safe Restart Agreement funding to address the revenue gap.

Parking Services spent $1.1 million on sustainable transportation, notably on maintenance of Park & Ride facilities, bike parking and transportation demand management initiatives. The City developed a new Public Bike Parking Strategy and better processes to track and manage bike parking needs.

The City ended the first quarter of 2021 with an overall surplus of $6.5 million, according to the 2021 Operating and Capital Budget – Q1 status report. Council received the report, which notes the City ended the first quarter with a $12.7 million surplus for programs supported by property taxes and a $6.2 million deficit for rate-supported services.

The update outlines expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost the City $27.5 million in tax-based expenses and $5.7 million in rate-based expenses – all of which were offset by $25.5 million in federal and provincial funding. The City anticipates the Province will reimburse the $1.5 million spent to date on Ottawa’s vaccination program.

Council received an update on the work of the City’s Anti-Racism Secretariat, including community highlights from the first phase of public engagement that will inform Ottawa’s first anti-racism strategy. Staff will conduct more public engagement before presenting the strategy to Committee and Council in 2022.

Council also received the Ottawa Community Housing Corporation’s annual report at today’s meeting.

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