Windsor's 3% vacant home tax ready to go — but needs provincial approval

Windsor has applied to the province for a new vacant home tax - powers the provincial budget promises to give municipalities.

City will rely on public tips to enforce the tax

This vacant home on Peter Street is one the City of Windsor has been monitoring, and issuing orders, to improve the condition of the property.
The City of Windsor is awaiting provincial approval to implement a vacant home tax in the city. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Propertyowners in Windsor with vacant homes won't be taxed quite yet. 

City staff are awaiting final confirmation from the province to move forward with a previously approved tax on vacant homes in Windsor. 

Ontario's recently announced budget for 2024 includes a plan to allow single- and upper-tier municipalities to tax owners of vacant homes. 

The tax is meant to increase housing supply by incentivizing property owners to make sure houses are occupied. In Windsor, a vacant home is defined as one unoccupied for more than 183 days.

"We are just waiting to see if we can proceed under the parameters of the program that we have designed," said Janice Guthrie, the city's chief financial officer. 

"This program is not intended to over-tax property owners. This is to move properties to be used for housing."

Windsor's council approved the tax in 2023. It'll cost owners three per cent of the assessed value of the home.

This type of tax is already used in Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton.

Windsor's program will be complaint-based, relying on tips from the public. Staff have previously said it is not intended to generate revenue. 

When the program is implemented, city staff will send a form to the property owner explaining what kind of exemptions are available to the tax. That form will need to be returned within 30 days. 

Exemptions apply for primary residences, homes that are vacant while under construction and homes that are vacant for up to two years after their owner enters long-term care or dies. 

The city will also review houses staff identify as unoccupied in their roles with departments like taxation, licencing and building.