Vacant Buildings and Land

The City contains too many empty buildings and unused land. Each vacancy is a wasted opportunity. If land is undeveloped it could be green space; if no businesses want a building it could be putBoarded Up Building to some other purpose.

I’m interested in any ideas to put empty buildings and vacant land to use. At the moment there are three ideas I’d like to explore.

First, the City allows landlords to claim a vacancy allowance for any land that they are actively marketing space for lease. Last year the City proposed eliminating the allowance, on the sensible theory that the public shouldn’t pay landlords to hold out for a higher price. But the Board of Trade pushed back, making the equally sensible point that many vacant buildings need large capital investments. The vacancy allowance encourages these investments by protecting landlords against the risk that the properties will go unlet once sold.

I suggest that we restructure the vacancy allowance to encourage investment and discourage holding out for a higher price. The allowance should be larger, but available only in the years after a significant capital investment.

Second, the Province owns a lot of unused land in the City. I will call on the Province to either use it or put it up for sale.

Third, the City contains a significant amount of land whose ownership is unclear. It goes unused from year to year because no one knows who is allowed to work on it. I will push to clarify ownership issues. If no one has been paying taxes, the unpaid bills may exceed the value of the land, in which case the City could consider expropriating it.

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