UPDATE: This article was corrected on December 11 at 18:55. In paragraph 6, the tax percentage increase demanded by ACORN was incorrect and has been amended.
TORONTO — This morning, grassroots activists from Toronto ACORN rallied in front of Toronto City Hall to pressure the city’s executive committee to vote in favour of a vacant home tax, which the committee will be discussing today. If implemented, residential homeowners who leave their properties vacant for more than six months will incur a tax as of 2022.
One week ago, on December 3, the City of Toronto formally recommended a vacant home tax to encourage homeowners to sell or rent the property. The proposed tax policy will help increase the housing supply and alleviate the city’s housing crisis once implemented.
“We simply can’t afford, from the housing supply perspective, to have housing accommodation for thousands of people sitting empty,” said Mayor John Tory. “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 vacant home tax levy is modelled off data from Vancouver’s implementation of the tax. According to the city’s estimations, “if one percent of Toronto’s housing stock is vacant, at a tax rate of one percent on the average Toronto home’s current assessed value, this could equal $55 to $66 million in tax revenue per year.”
The city said that the tax revenue will be allocated to affordable housing projects.
Protesters from Toronto ACORN are pressuring the city to implement the tax in 2021, not 2022, and to raise the current tax percentage from 1% to 3%, demanding that landlords should not charge tenants exorbitant rent prices: “Housing is a human right,” one picket read. “Real affordable housing now,” another picket read.
Nalenie Persaud recently joined Toronto ACORN and is passionate about the cause. She wrote “Homes over profit” in large green letters with chalk on the pavement outside of City Hall.
“It’s sad to hear that there aren’t more people out here because anybody could be in a position like this at any time,” said Persaud, who encourages other citizens to get involved to the best of their ability. “Sign petitions, join protests.”
Persaud said that she and her fellow Toronto ACORN members are out on the streets rallying for those who are housing insecure but cannot participate.
“We’re grateful for the people present, but power comes in numbers,” she said. “Come out and see what we’re doing to fight for your rights too.”
Toronto ACORN is a local subdivision of a national organization that fights for social and economic justice for low- and moderate-income communities. In addition to housing security and affordable housing, ACORN also campaigns for better minimum wages, affordable internet, and disability rights throughout the country. Before the pandemic, the volunteers often canvassed support and raised awareness on foot: doorknocking, protesting, meetings and peaceful direct action, according to their website.
Tomorrow, Toronto ACORN has two rallies organized in the city: one to end the displacement of residents at Lenmore Court Apartments in Scarborough and another to halt “renovictions” in Rexdale. The group has set up an online letter-writing campaign to urge Michael Klein, the Rexdale building owner, to stop evicting tenants for construction.
The executive committee will be voting on the staff report today. If passed, the vacant home tax proposal will go before the City Council on December 16 and 17.
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