FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa is calling for more comprehensive measures from the City of Ottawa on the issue of vacant units after it was revealed by a recent city report that over 6,100 units throughout the city have been deemed to be potentially vacant.
This is especially egregious when we consider the amount of residents facing homelessness in Ottawa numbers close to 1,400 in 2021, according to the Homeless Hub. This means that the number of vacant units outnumbers the amount of unhoused residents more than four times over.
The report shows that close to 3,300 homes have been declared vacant while 2,836 homes have been deemed vacant meaning that no declaration has been received on these homes.
According to the report, condominiums make up a large portion of empty homes. The greatest number of vacant units is in Ottawa’s downtown core wards while Barrhaven West has the greatest number of vacant units outside of the core.
Horizon Ottawa is specifically calling for a measure similar to a variable tax that would allow the city to impose a tax rate calculated according to the unit’s increase in value over a specified period of time as proposed in its 2020 policy paper on the Vacant Unit Tax.
Horizon Ottawa also recently launched a campaign to more than double the affordable housing budget the city currently has as another tool to tackle the housing crisis.
“As the data from the city suggests, vacant units are still a very prevalent issue in Ottawa and current measures do not go far enough to free up housing and adequately address the housing crisis,” said Sam Hersh, a member of Horizon Ottawa’s Board of Directors. “The fact that there is a significantly greater amount of homes than unhoused people in our city and they are still not housed is a statistic that should frustrate everyone.”
The policy proposed by Horizon Ottawa would add 0.5% to the annual increase in value for the property type in its neighbourhood. This would provide an incentive to all vacant property owners to rent or sell their property regardless of the unit’s characteristics. This could also help the city control the increase of rental prices and promote better accessibility to the real estate market.
Ottawa residential real estate prices have increased by more than 20% since 2021. The proposed tax would adjust to meet these realities to assure that owners do not sit on empty homes during times of large increases.
Horizon Ottawa is also calling for additional tools to be used and implemented such as: a municipal lands transfer tax that exists in Toronto to generate money for building new affordable homes, as well as a host of policies advocated by groups like Ottawa ACORN to support tenants like landlord licensing and stronger restrictions around renovictions and demovictions.
“The City needs to get serious about the housing crisis and use all the tools at their disposal to the fullest extent that they can,” said Hersh. “That means doing things like implementing a vacant unit tax that, yes, generates revenue, but also is actually effective at freeing up existing vacant housing stock.”
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