Residential Vacant Unit Tax

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In December 2020, City Council approved a motion which directed the City to study the power to impose an optional property tax on the assessment of vacant residential units and report back on the feasibility of such a tax. This survey is designed to gather residents' opinions on the vacant unit tax and should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete. For the purposes of this survey, a vacant residential unit is considered a home that has been unoccupied for 6 months.

According to census data, in 2016, there were 1.34 million empty and temporarily occupied homes in Canada, with more than 20,000 of these located in Ottawa. These vacant homes are a potential source of housing supply. Between 2016-2018, the Ottawa rental market grew in supply by approximately 1%, yet the population requiring rental accommodations was three times this figure. As a result, apartment rentals increased by 7.8% and house rentals by 11.3% over the same period. During this time, Ottawa's rental vacancy rate reached a historic low to 1.6%, which is well below the 3% considered to be a healthy and balanced rental market. Communities with low vacancy rates often see a correlation with a rise in rental prices, which can be further exacerbated by residential home purchases solely for speculation purposes. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate market conditions exhibit increased rental availability and lower rent prices, however, there is still much uncertainty in long-term market projections.

Vacant homes can be neglected by homeowners, become an eyesore for the community, and impact nearby property values. These properties are subject to theft, vandalism, water damage, and fires and the City of Ottawa bears the cost to maintain, administer, demolish, and service vacant properties. Implementing a residential vacant unit tax could encourage property owners to maintain, occupy or rent their properties while increasing the housing supply. Creating more available units would remove some housing market pressures by increasing the vacancy rate while reducing housing costs. Homeowners that choose for their properties to remain unoccupied would be subject to a tax. The City recognizes the importance of sustained funding for affordable housing and the residential vacant unit tax would be used as a means to finance a portion towards affordable housing in Ottawa.


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In December 2020, City Council approved a motion which directed the City to study the power to impose an optional property tax on the assessment of vacant residential units and report back on the feasibility of such a tax. This survey is designed to gather residents' opinions on the vacant unit tax and should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete. For the purposes of this survey, a vacant residential unit is considered a home that has been unoccupied for 6 months.

According to census data, in 2016, there were 1.34 million empty and temporarily occupied homes in Canada, with more than 20,000 of these located in Ottawa. These vacant homes are a potential source of housing supply. Between 2016-2018, the Ottawa rental market grew in supply by approximately 1%, yet the population requiring rental accommodations was three times this figure. As a result, apartment rentals increased by 7.8% and house rentals by 11.3% over the same period. During this time, Ottawa's rental vacancy rate reached a historic low to 1.6%, which is well below the 3% considered to be a healthy and balanced rental market. Communities with low vacancy rates often see a correlation with a rise in rental prices, which can be further exacerbated by residential home purchases solely for speculation purposes. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate market conditions exhibit increased rental availability and lower rent prices, however, there is still much uncertainty in long-term market projections.

Vacant homes can be neglected by homeowners, become an eyesore for the community, and impact nearby property values. These properties are subject to theft, vandalism, water damage, and fires and the City of Ottawa bears the cost to maintain, administer, demolish, and service vacant properties. Implementing a residential vacant unit tax could encourage property owners to maintain, occupy or rent their properties while increasing the housing supply. Creating more available units would remove some housing market pressures by increasing the vacancy rate while reducing housing costs. Homeowners that choose for their properties to remain unoccupied would be subject to a tax. The City recognizes the importance of sustained funding for affordable housing and the residential vacant unit tax would be used as a means to finance a portion towards affordable housing in Ottawa.


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Page last updated: 27 February 2021, 20:10