Yonge Street's small businesses are a vital part of Toronto's commercial mix. These shops and services are often run by locals, many of whom have owned their properties for generations. With a massive tax assessment increase in 2017, many of the businesses and owners faced having to close up shop or sell their properties to the highest bidder.
The Province depends on the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to conduct regular reviews of property values across Ontario. The Current Value Assessment model (CVA) that they use looks at the market value of comparable sites to establish a given property's worth and taxes. The issue on Yonge Street, and other intensifying neighbourhoods, is that the comparable sites are increasingly sky scraper development properties. This means that owners who want to maintain low-rise properties and rent to small businesses are being taxed like developers. If unaddressed, this will force closures and sales that will further promote tall towers.
A number of property owners contacted me after receiving their property tax assessment. Last summer, I sat down with them and Revenue Services staff to understand the challenges they are facing and to find a way forward. Some owners were facing a 100% tax increase last year alone. Building a coalition of support on Council, I passed a 10% interim tax cap measure that provided owners with stability and predictability.
This year I led Council in giving staff direction to explore what more the City can do to support these businesses and major new policy recommendations are being drafted for 2019. While several of our new planning policies are awaiting approval from the Province, new protections have been created to protect Yonge Street's character and history. While we look at how MPAC can respond, I will also be making sure that the owners of these properties have access to planning information they need to better argue against their valuations.
Yonge Street's small businesses deserve to be championed by my colleagues on Council and my counterparts at the Province. These owners have invested in our community for decades and built up the neighbourhood as a destination. We need to move quickly to show that we are just as invested in them.