Tax on second homes could fund construction of affordable housing
It was interesting to see so much on local housing in last week’s Creemore Echo. It’s sad that this has become an issue. Yet Creemore is not idiosyncratic in the dynamic at play here. Twenty years ago, I read an article in the Yorkshire Post about the economy of Yorkshire struggling with the influx of weekenders from London buying up local farms and homes to be able to pop up on the weekend to enjoy the local scenery and trails. The loss of opportunity for locals who wanted to follow the family farming tradition but weren’t the eldest child who might inherit the farm was only one of the collateral harms. Many retail operations struggled with having a much-reduced weekday population to support their businesses. Does any of this sound familiar?
But really, ever since Leif Erickson and his band of Norsemen started marauding in their galleys, there have been invasions by white hordes either pushing off the indigenous populations or offering baubles in trade for their greener pastures so that they could colonize the region. My own ancestors were implicated in the genocide of the Indigenous Beothuk in their quest to settle Newfoundland. I guess that until the entire planet is gentrified and developed, or we suffocate on our own exhaust in the rising heat, this will continue to be an issue.
What to do about it?
My suggestion: Enhanced mill rate for second homes. Many decades ago seasonal properties in many municipalities in Ontario were taxed at a much lower mill rate as the owners justified that they shouldn’t need to pay school taxes in two different school districts and for other municipal services like snow plowing. Of course, most cottages then were very humble and not winterized so there may have been some justification for this system at one time. After the Ontario Fair Tax Commission “Working Group Property Tax” report in 1992 this system was discouraged because it impoverished the municipal governments and cottagers became more and more demanding for services anyway. But perhaps now there is a solid argument for an increased tax rate for second homes. If we need to provide affordable accommodation for those who can’t compete for the elevated market in high demand areas, then this new tax can fund the construction of affordable housing. After all, I don’t believe that we even have a real community if we ultimately don’t have a cross section of many ethnic, social and economic demographics. We just have a gated community – the gates being the buy-in price for living in the area. This way the wealthy can have their cake and still have thehospitality-staff that can afford to stay in the area and feed it to them.