Toronto Mayor John Tory is not ruling out a potential empty homes tax following a meeting with stakeholders discussing a lack of supply for those looking for a place to live.
“The data I have seen in this area, suggests that there are 65,000 vacant homes in Toronto,” Tory said. “We want those properties to be on the market available for people to own or to rent, because we don’t view housing as just another investment like something in the stock market. We view it as a scarcity that we have in the city for places for people to live.”
Tory said he was open to discussion on a “vacant home tax” to see if it was the right measure for Toronto.
Vancouver instituted an empty homes tax on Jan. 1. Homes deemed empty in that city are subject to a tax of one per cent of the property’s assessed value. The tax only applies to investment properties and not principal residences or homes rented on a long-term basis. Net revenues from the tax will be reinvested into Vancouver’s affordable housing initiatives.
“A tax we might put on, and we’re not there yet,” said Tory. “But if we end up doing that, and it incents just a few those … 65,000 people to put those houses back into the supply for ownership or for rental, then we would have made housing available for more people in Toronto.”
The average price for homes in Toronto rose by a staggering 17 per cent in 2016, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. Prices are expected to jump another 10 per cent to 16 per cent in 2017. The average price for a detached home in the city was about $1.57 million in according to TREB’s February Market Watch. The average price for all houses sold that month in Toronto was $875,983, up from just over $685,000 for the same month last year.
Tory went on to say that the best way to address the overall concern is to take on the issue of supply and that would require help from both the provincial and the federal governments.
“While it takes time to actually build the houses, you’ve got to start, and you start with the province taking an equal part with the federal government working with us to stimulate people to get more interested in building. ” said Tory.
The mayor said other priorities that came out of the meeting included the simplifying of the permit approval process for those building “affordable housing and housing of all kinds,” and ideas on how to attract private sector capital into the “purpose built rental business.”