There might be even more reason for councillor Chris Holt to smile. He is the man, the demolition man, who wants to rid Windsor of empty buildings.
Holt actually sought and won the media spotlight during the last election with his view that property tax discounts should end for landlords unable to lease their buildings.
The rules have now changed.
Landlords will get no break. This is probably why empty buildings are being demolished all over the city. It is an ideal way for their owners to avoid the higher taxes and other costs of maintaining their empties.
Now there is a new wrinkle which could produce more vacant lots.
Currently the city can only tear down homes. On Monday, councillors will discuss an administration plea to be allowed to demolish retail and non-residential buildings.
Here’s the catch, though.
In the Windsor Star on March 1, the infamous city building official, Dan Lunardi, talks about derelict properties of a commercial nature, once a sign of the city’s prosperous past are, in their present state, bringing down property values.
It is a most unusual statement from a city official who, probably, should know there are many factors reducing property values. These include the many roads the city ignores, which are in such a state only run-down buildings could love.
Sadly, on Monday Council will probably agree to another quick fix to a complex issue. And, as is usual, councilors will not understand that it will be an indictment of their inability to work hard on economic development.
At one time, it was thought the discounts for empty buildings would be an incentive for owners to get them rented. That, apparently, didn’t work, so people like Holt come along and think things will get better by quashing the discount and putting it to landlords who can’t find tenants, because Council has abdicated its economic development responsibilities.
It is amazing how these issues always come back to Council not doing its job.
Joseph Mikhail, of Mikhail Holdings, in a letter to the local paper on January 24, found it puzzling anyone would think property owners will pay, “… carrying costs, utilities, mortgages and taxes on a vacant property simply to return to them 25 per cent of the property tax paid is simply not accurate and in my most humble and respectful opinion … does not bare reality.”
There are many creative ways to bring empty buildings back to life. They could be given to charities. These non-profits could renovate the good ones and operate tax free.
By doing this, it could keep neighbourhoods looking alive and active, rather than populated with empty lots.
Another way would be for the city to set up a real economic development department, staffed with true professionals, and get out of the way.