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Should owners of vacant houses in York Region be taxed?

Region surveying, hosting town halls July 7 and 11 to consider tax on empty properties in a bid to improve housing stock and affordability

York Region is asking for your input on whether to put a new vacant housing tax into place.

The region is putting out a call for residents to fill out a survey as part of a feasibility study into the tax. The municipality is exploring taxing homes sitting empty in a bid to improve housing stock and affordability. The region is also planning two virtual town halls July 7 and 11.

“Preliminary analysis suggests York Region could have upwards of 4,000 vacant homes,” the region said in a news release. “To understand and gauge support for this tax, York Region is looking for the communities’ input and feedback.”

Regional council decided to start a feasibility study on the tax last October, something supported by housing advocates. Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa have all implemented such a tax, which the region said would “apply only to non-principal residences that are unoccupied for a specified period."

“This tax would encourage homeowners to occupy or rent out their homes, and any tax revenues generated would be used to support affordable housing initiatives,” the region said.

March analysis from real-estate trend tracker Point2 indicated Newmarket's vacant properties had increased from 568 to 938 in the past decade. But the town's estimate on vacant dwellings is more modest, at about 60 as of last October based on water use rates. 

The exact details of the tax, including the tax amount and criteria, are to be determined. The survey includes questions such as how long you think a home can remain vacant before getting taxed, exceptions, and what you think the tax rate should be.

You can fill out the survey through the York Region municipal website. You can also register there for the virtual town halls running July 7 and 11 from 5 to 6 p.m.

“Your feedback will help us make informed decisions related to the design of the potential tax.”