Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. January 18, 2017. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

CK To Phase Out Vacancy Rebate Program

Chatham-Kent council has approved a motion to phase out the municipality’s vacancy rebate program.

The motion, which passed 15-3 at Monday night’s council meeting, calls for the vacancy rebate program to be phased out over a two-year period starting in 2018. The program is set to be completely eliminated by the 2020 tax year.

Currently, property owners of commercial vacant units receive a 30% rebate from the municipality. Property owners of industrial vacant units receive a 35% rebate. The motion recommends that the rebates for both types of properties be decreased to 20% by 2018, to 10% by 2019, and then down to 0% by 2020.

Chatham-Kent processes approximately 250 vacancy rebate applications annually.

According to the motion report, the elimination of the vacancy rebate program will save the municipality approximately $600,000 per year by 2020.

Municipality administration met with both the Chatham Chamber of Commerce and the Historic Downtown Chatham Business Improvement Association to discuss the elimination of the rebate program before the motion was brought forward to council. According to the municipality, both organizations, as well as the Tilbury BIA, expressed their support of the motion.

One councillor that expressed disapproval of the motion was Michael Bondy, who argues that phasing out the rebate program will only be a disincentive for people to buy more properties. He adds that a 30% rebate is fairly insignificant to begin with for property owners, who rack up many costs from vacant buildings. He says the 30% rebate is there to help these property owners in times of need.