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forrent

Anyone who walks along 2nd Ave E downtown can quickly determine that vacant commercial buildings are a very big problem in Owen Sound. Of course, no one wants to be an owner of a vacant building but I don't think vacancy is a good enough reason to pay 30% less property tax. For the last 20 years, Ontario has allowed commercial building owners to apply for a rebate to their municipal tax. This was done to provide relief to owners during a slow economic time. All this changed in 2018 because Ontario now allows municipalities control of their Vacancy Refund programs and in fact, they can eliminate them.

While all this may sound a bit abstract, imagine you were the owner of a totally vacant building worth $200k on Main Street. Only because your space is vacant, and that you filed for a rebate, you will pay $2,500 less taxes each year. This $2,500 is a bonus for not having a business on the street. This rebate program is how it's been for 20 years.

Now imagine that the City of Owen Sound decides to remove vacancy rebates for commercial properties (as Muskoka municipalities have done in 2018). Suddenly there is no incentive to have a "vacancy" sign in your window. No longer having a 30% tax break means you really want to lease out the space and make any money you can on the space.

So who has been funding these tax rebates for the last 20 years? Answer: Owen Sound taxpayers. I think it is time to stop. Yes, building owners who have vacant buildings will complain. They may even want to sell their building at a lower price since they were counting on this rebate as part of their speculative valuation.

This should be an election issue in Owen Sound for the Fall election. Each and every council candidate should answer the question, "Do you support the removal of commercial rebates for vacant buildings?" I think we will soon see where each candidate's allegiance falls. For the vacant building owner or with the rest of the city's taxpayers.

Robert Hope

Owen Sound


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