Toronto mayor jumps into real estate policy debate

Toronto mayor jumps into real estate policy debate

Toronto mayor jumps into real estate policy debate And provides his own idea about how to best manage the city’s escalating real estate prices.

Foreign buyer tax.

Capital gains tax.

Tighten access to credit.

Build more homes.

We could keep going, but you get the gist; there have been several potential policies floated that could address the seemingly impossible trajectory of Toronto housing prices and, therefore, affordability.

Well, you can now add vacant house tax to the growing list.

That appears to be Mayor John Tory’s preferred method.

“Vancouver recently implemented a vacant home tax,” Tory said Thursday, following a roundtable housing discussion with industry experts. “And I am open to exploring whether this would be the right measure for Toronto.”

Although there is a lack of sufficient data, Tory estimates there are around 65,000 vacant homes in the city.

And those vacancies are increasingly on the industry’s radar.

“A woman reached out to me and said, ‘what about a vacancy tax? There are 50 vacant units in my building that aren’t taxed,’” Carl Langschmidt, president of, said. “I never thought Toronto needed a vacant tax like Vancouver … I didn’t think it was so much of an issue, but some people on the ground are reporting a fair amount, though not as much.”

Vancouver’s vacancy tax went into effect January 1.

The policy requires homeowners to lease their units for at least six months this year; failing to do so will result in a 1% tax on the home’s assessed value.

“The goal of the Empty Homes Tax is to increase rental housing supply during a time of unprecedented low vacancy and high costs,” Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, general manager of community services for the city of Vancouver, said earlier this month. "We are encouraging homeowners to become landlords rather than pay the tax. But they must take action or face a significant tax bill."

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