Township dumps tax break for vacant buildings and land

BRUCEDALE – Guelph-Eramosa council has voted to get rid of the tax break owners of vacant commercial and industrial buildings and land have enjoyed since 1998.

The township held an open house for public input on May 6 (with just one person from Erin in attendance) and finance director Linda Cheyne recommended following the lead of Wellington County and most other local municipalities that have abolished the benefit.

The tax rebates of 30 per cent for vacant buildings and 35 per cent for vacant land used to be mandatory, introduced during a time of economic downturn, when business taxation was being shifted from tenants to property owners. In 2016, the province allowed municipalities to opt out of providing the tax break for businesses.

“They already get a benefit by virtue of being vacant,” said Mayor Chris White, noting the assessed value of vacant properties is discounted, resulting in lower taxation. “It’s a lot of bureaucracy and confusion.” 

Cheyne said cancelling the discounts would “eliminate the disparity with residential properties who fund the rebate but are not eligible for the program.”

She said the change would reduce vacancies and derelict buildings, and encourage landlords to make the best use of their properties.

Council unanimously supported the change, which will now be made by the province at the request of the county.

The township had no applications for the rebates in 2018, and in the prior five years they have amounted to a value of $41,763, split between the township ($9,642), the county ($23,387) and education ($8,734).

Cheyne noted Guelph-Eramosa has recently adopted a Community Improvement Plan that allows businesses to apply for grants that will support development/redevelopment of commercial properties.