Clock ticking on vacant commercial properties
Norfolk gives landlords a break on their property taxes while they are searching for suitable tenants of industrial and commercial buildings.
The program has worked well over the years for property owners who are making a good-faith effort to occupy their real estate.
However, in too many cases it has enabled real-estate investors who simply park their money and let their properties go to seed.
The end result has been neglected properties that no one can use and which, too often, end up blighting the surrounding streetscape.
As a result, Norfolk council agreed this week to phase out these rebates.
By 2019, local landlords will be responsible to pay the full commercial and industrial rates regardless of tenancy.
Norfolk hopes this provides an incentive for landlords to find a tenant as quickly as possible or sell to someone who has a tenant in waiting.
In a report to council, tax collector Sue Boughner said her department received little feedback this fall when she advertised the county’s plans for a phase-out.
An open house was held in the council chamber at Governor Simcoe Square Oct. 23. The only person to attend was a representative of the Simcoe BIA.
As well, the Delhi District Chamber of Commerce expressed support for the phase-out in a phone call.
“Staff interpret the poor attendance and minimal feedback as support for the proposed changes and the eventual elimination of the current program,” Boughner says in her report.
“Opposition from property owners who previously or currently utilize the benefits was anticipated. However, no feedback was received.”
The Ontario government cleared the way for the elimination of vacant rebate programs in 2016. The Ministry of Finance has to inspect and approve municipal plans before they take effect.
Norfolk will honour the 33 per cent rebate for the 2017 taxation year. The rebate next year will fall to 16.5 per cent. The rebate disappears for good in the 2019 taxation year.
The rebate program has cost the county nearly $80,000 annually in recent years. The treasury department receives about 60 applications a year. Nearly half of these applicants have asked for the rebate in at least three of the past five years.