Toronto City Staff Report Recommends New Tax to Be Levied on Vacant Homes

Toronto City Staff Report Recommends New Tax to Be Levied on Vacant Homes
Toronto Mayor John Tory speaks during a news conference at a construction site that will soon house residential housing in Toronto, Canada, on Jan. 16, 2020. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)
Andrew Chen

Mayor John Tory expressed support for a Toronto city staff report recommending a tax to be imposed on vacant homes starting in 2022.

Tory said in a Dec. 3 news release that most Toronto residents will not have to pay this tax.

“We knew before the pandemic that we needed to increase the supply of affordable housing and ensure the city remains a place where all members of the workforce can contemplate living. In the wake of the pandemic, this is more important than ever,” said Tory.

“We simply can’t afford, from the housing supply perspective, to have housing accommodation for thousands of people sitting empty. You can live in it, you can rent it, but if it sits empty you will pay a tax that helps us build more affordable housing people can live in.”

The report (pdf), titled “Policy Analysis, Potential Design and Possible Implementation of a Vacant Home Tax in Toronto,” once adopted, will go before the city council on Dec. 16 and 17.
Toronto has been studying measures to a vacant homes tax since 2017, borrowing Vancouver’s data in its implementation of a similar tax. Simulations suggest that if 1 percent of Toronto’s housing stock is vacant, and is subject to a 1 percent tax rate, the city could yield $55 to $66 million tax revenue per year.
“The vacant home tax has been used successfully in Vancouver and we’re proposing we go ahead with it here,” Tory told Breakfast Television on Dec. 3.

“While a vacant home tax is not specifically a revenue generating tool, any revenue generated could be used toward funding important housing initiatives across the city,” said Councillor Gary Crawford.

The report estimated that costs of the full program start-up could range from $10 to $13 million over a two year period. The city’s chief financial officer, treasurer, and executive director housing secretariat have recommended that the city council authorize a budget of $5 million in 2021 and $6 million in 2022 to go to funding the estimated start-up costs.