City delays implementation of new vacant house tax

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The implementation of Windsor’s new tax on vacant homes will be delayed until at least the fall.

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This month, city council learned the vacant residential unit tax program it approved in 2021 was on hold while staff waited for more information from the provincial government.

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The city’s chief finance officer, Janice Guthrie, advised council that administration was preparing to share public feedback on the tax gathered during community consultations earlier this year when it received word the province was eyeing new regulations for vacant property programs.

“It caused us to take a bit of a pause in moving forward with this to understand what really would be regulated,” Guthrie said. “We didn’t want to proceed with a bylaw and then seek ministerial consent to be able to do this to find out that our program was not aligned with what they were looking for.”

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Houses boarded up
Boarded up homes on Indian Road in Windsor are shown on Monday, July 17, 2023. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Since then, Guthrie said she has been in contact with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and will be meeting with individuals from the Ministry of Finance “to get a better understanding of the program.”

The province is “very interested” in Windsor’s vacant home tax and wants her to share details with its representatives, she said.

Aimed at forcing a solution to the dozens of boarded-up homes in Sandwich Town, the program would more broadly see owners of city residential units that are left vacant pay an additional municipal tax on top of the regular municipal tax property owners already pay.

The tax would be calculated as a percentage of the property’s assessment value and would not apply to principal residences or commercial properties.

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Owners of a residential property would be required to submit an annual declaration to declare the status of their home, which would determine if the vacant home tax would apply.

Guthrie said she hopes to have more information to share with council about the program later this year.

Windsor will be the fourth municipality to implement a tax on vacant residential properties should the program move ahead, Guthrie said.

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