The goal of the Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) program is to ensure that properties don’t sit vacant and crumbling for eons, when they could be rented instead. This has been a problem in Ottawa, with investors buying up properties, evicting the tenants, then leaving them vacant and “composting”, sometimes for years. Champlain Park has not been immune to this sort of activity.
The City’s intention is good and, coupled with other ongoing initiatives, may well prevent unnecessary evictions and homelessness. I don’t like the negative option approach, but in an increasingly cash-strapped city, maybe it’s the most efficient approach for now? One hopes that Ottawa will, sooner rather than later, find a way to marry the tax data on principal residences, and the VUT program, so homeowners won’t have to, every year, re-declare their principal residences online.
Here’s an example of a house in Champlain Park that had been abandoned and left to crumble for about 20 years, in spite of repeated appeals to the City by neighbours and the Community Association. When the house was first abandoned, it could have been affordable housing for a young family. At last, the absentee owner sold the property to a family who built a new home on the property. (2014 photo from Google Maps Street View):
Heather points out that this house had a sibling. 115 Northwestern was vacant in 2010 and possibly before, collecting its share of critters. It was torn down in late 2014 or early 2015, before it collapsed completely. In the beginning, it too could have been an affordable home for a young family. But, the lot has remained vacant ever since. There may be other vacant properties scattered around Champlain Park. Developers do a lot of land banking in Kitchissippi.
The November 22 2022 press release…
City of Ottawa
Vacant Unit Tax notice to residential property owners
An important Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) notice will be arriving in homeowners’ mailboxes or inboxes over the next week for each property they own. It provides information such as the roll number and access code and identifies the next steps in the process to file the required occupancy status declaration for the 2022 calendar year.
Declarations must be filed between January and March 16, 2023. Property owners must provide some basic information on the occupancy of their property, including if it is their principal residence.
It will only take a few minutes to file the online declaration at ottawa.ca/vut. To access the declaration form, you must input your roll number and access code which will be mailed in the coming days or can be found on the latest tax bill. My ServiceOttawa account holders can sign into their account and complete the declaration without needing to insert their roll number or access code.
If you have a property that was vacant for 184 or more days in 2022, you may indicate whether any of the following exemptions apply:
- Death of a registered owner
- Property owner was in a hospital or long-term care facility
- Arm’s length sale of the property
- Specific court orders prohibiting occupancy, sale, or rental of the property
- Extended renovations or construction
- Was used as a cottage rental with a valid permit for at least 100 days
If the property was vacant and does not qualify for an exemption, it may be subject to a one per cent charge of the property’s current assessed value on the final 2023 property tax bill. Declarations are subject to audit to confirm their authenticity.
Homeowners will be required to file a declaration every year, between January and mid-March.
The City has declaration options for those who require accessibility-related supports or for those who do not have computer or internet access. More information will be provided in January.
Vacant Unit Tax revenues will help fund affordable housing initiatives, in accordance with the City’s Ten-Year Affordable Housing and Homeless Plan, which commits capital funding for the construction of up to 500 new affordable units annually.
Visit ottawa.ca/vut for more information.
By the way, the city’s Frequently Asked Questions there says you can do off-line submission if you need to:
The City has declaration options for those who require accessibility-related supports or who cannot access the internet. Beginning in January 2023, residents can call 613-580-2444 to complete their declaration over the phone, or schedule an in-person appointment.