Hintonburg resident proposes Ottawa charge property owners a levy for vacant properties

OTTAWA —
Cheryl Parrot has had enough with developers leaving buildings vacant in her downtown Ottawa neighborhood.

The Hintonburg resident is tired of chasing developers to maintain their properties and thinks theses vacant residences could help relieve the crisis in affordable housing the city is dealing with.

“This is a problem because they get broken into; there’s constant graffiti; there’s weeds; there’s garbage; and then it‘s constant calls to the city to 311, then a property standards order is issued,” Parrot said.

“Maybe it gets looked after then two weeks later we are back at it again.”

Parrot has been living in this neighborhood for over 40 years and has seen a lot of change. Her community has become stronger with families settling but the kind of change these boarded up buildings represent is unwelcome.

“Right now we have a homelessness crisis, we have people sleeping on the pathway near the O-Train,” Parrot said. “All the time we’ve got boarded up buildings like this.”

Parrot thinks the city should levy a new tax on property owners who leave their buildings empty and refuse to either rent them to tenants, repair them or re-develop the properties in a reasonable timeframe.

“We need a vacant property tax like they have in Winnipeg,” Parrot said. “Its produced results, they have a lot less vacant properties now and any money that they get through that tax goes back into affordable housing.”

Anne Hanna, who lives next door to a vacant house, thinks taxing these properties will help reduce homelessness in the city.

“We are hoping that by taxing these abandoned boarded up buildings that it will discourage developers from evicting everyone and boarding them up to make more money on speculation,” Hanna said. “We are hoping it will encourage developers to let residents live there until they need the land.”

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury thinks this is an idea whose time has come. He says most of the vacant buildings are multi-unit buildings and there could be hundreds of units sitting empty because owners have chosen to sit on the properties and wait.

According to Fleury, the city has removed a 30 per cent tax break the province had for vacant properties and they have instituted added fees when complaints are lodged against landlords, but the city has limited tools and staffing to deal with the problem.

“My understanding is we don’t have the tools to force an additional tax on vacancies,” Fleury said. “As a city we have a bigger issue here let’s regroup lets develop a working plan, if we need changes provincially to the tools we have as a municipality let’s ask for those.”

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