Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg, Manitoba –
Winnipeg Mayoral Candidate Rick Shone is calling for the city to get tougher on vacant and problem properties.
If elected, Shone pledges to work with city council to make changes to Winnipeg’s Vacant Building Bylaw to impose a tax on homes that are vacant for at least half of the year and impose stronger penalties on long-term vacant properties.
The plan is to impose a two percent tax on vacant properties. Property owners assessed in the residential tax class will be required to declare annually if their property was vacant for over 184 days in the prior year. The extra tax would come out to two percent of the property’s assessment value.
“This move is meant primarily to increase housing stock in the city, rather than be a revenue generator,” said Shone, “any revenue collected would be invested into affordable housing initiatives.”
There will be several exemptions to ensure homes are not taxed unfairly. The principal among these is that the vacant unit tax does not apply to primary residences. Exemptions would also be available for owners in care, snowbirds, the death of an owner, significant renovations, sale of the property, and court orders.
This follows similar initiatives in cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. Under the current by-law vacant properties may be inspected annually. After five years of inspections, owners are charged a fee of one percent of the propertys’ value each year. Shone would also look to increase the fees and fines associated with these properties.
“These properties aren’t just an eyesore – they are taking up valuable real estate, they are a fire hazard, and they attract crime. If we want to build a better city, we need to get proactive,” said Shone.