Program phase out the proper route
City staff, apparently, don’t have enough on their plates.
That’s the only reasonable explanation for a motion approved at Monday’s meeting that could see some poor schmuck at city hall tasked with reviewing property inspection reports and marketing ventures by local landlords looking to rent vacant property. The motion was tied to what, ultimately, is a smart move: phasing out the vacant building rebate. The rebate allows landlords of vacant buildings and units to apply for a basic tax cut because they can’t rent, lease or sell their unit.
During this week’s council meeting council was given the chance to scrap the program, leave it as is or phase it out over two years. Council did the right thing asked for a report on phasing it out, but also tightening eligibility and having applicants prove they’re trying their best to have their property sold or rented.
Yes, scrap the program, but don’t throw more responsibilities at staff who, it can be argued, probably aren’t really authorities on proper marketing efforts. It seems a bit ridiculous to have some staffer scrolling through Kijiji or checking local ‘for rent’ ads to make sure landlords are doing what landlords should be doing.
What landlords shouldn’t be doing is getting a tax break because a building is vacant. Coun. Mitch Panciuk hit the nail on its head when he told council the program is being subsidized “on the backs of residential taxpayers.”
What incentive do some of the slum landlords around the city have to try and find tenants when the city’s willing to cut them a break on their property taxes? The program, which has been around for years, is flawed and should have been scrapped ages ago.
Jill Raycroft, chief executive officer for the local chamber of commerce, argued differently with council, but the program certainly looks like an incentive for landlords to just shrug off needed repairs, etc... and allow the rebate to roll in.
Scrap the program. If council’s going to phase it out, that’s fine, but in the interim don’t leave it to someone at city hall to determine if an appropriate effort is being made in renting or selling. • Belleville’s not the first municipality to decide, as well, an integrity commissioner may not be a bad idea. While the position hasn’t been created, a bylaw to create one has had its first reading.
While some may argue it’s another level of bureaucracy the idea does have its merits. Having an independent position to, essentially, keep council in line isn’t such a bad thing. We’ve just had an example here in Belleville — Mayor Taso Christopher’s recent legal woes — where, perhaps, an integrity commissioner could have stepped in and prevented things from going south.
Accountability is a major factor in politics and if this position will ensure it exists it can’t be all bad.