Owners who sit on vacant Hamilton properties may soon have to ante up if the province approves Hamilton’s plan to impose a vacant home tax. Governments at all three levels have cited property speculation, often from absentee owners as one of the contributors to the current housing crisis.
Staff are recommending a plan that would impose a one percent extra tax on the owners of any property that has been vacant for more than six months.
Stressing that the aim of the tax is to get the properties occupied, not revenue generation, the staff report estimates that the program would require the hiring of 16 more employees at a cost of $2,2 Million per year. In the first full year of operation the tax would yield approximately $4.3 million, but as houses become occupied the revenue would diminish each year. Based on a staff estimate of over 1,100 homes being taxed, the plan would result in a $3 Million surplus by 2027. One of the challenges is that nobody knows exactly how many vacant properties there are in Hamilton. Census data suggests there could be as many as 11,000 units, but many of them would be apartments which are not subject to the tax. It was suggested that maybe the vacant properties could be identified through Canada Post.
Most members of the GIC committee liked the vacant property tax plan but did not want to commit to hiring 16 people until the City gets a clear green light from the province, which has to approve the designation of a city as eligible for the program.
One was Mayor Fred Eisenberger who wanted to correct some earlier discussion where he said the 6,000 people on the social housing waiting list are being erroneously cited as being homeless.