Across this vast province of ours there are an estimated 12, 000 idle brownfield sites. Brownfields are areas that may have previously been contaminated due to commercial or industrial use. Many of these properties lay abandoned in key areas of our communities, including downtown cores and waterfronts.
The redevelopment of these properties can have many positive impacts on communities. By making better use of existing developed lands, brownfield development can promote intensification, curb urban sprawl and make better use of existing infrastructure. Redevelopment can also serve as a catalyst for community revitalization, attracting new businesses and homeowners to the area, and by extension, increasing the municipal tax base.
At present, Ontario has a Brownfields Financial Tax Incentive Program to try to encourage brownfield redevelopment. The program allows municipalities to forgive the educational portion of property taxes and apply for matching education tax assistance from the province. Unfortunately, the financial impact of this tax forgiveness program is small and has resulted in low take up by the industry.
Property redevelopers must overcome tremendous financial, regulatory and legal obstacles to redevelop these areas. The absence of start-up government support acts as a disincentive to take on these projects. For this reason, OREA has been a long-time advocate of creating a new tax class for properties under remediation where property owners could pay taxes comparable to agricultural lands or greenfields during the remediation process.
OREA is excited to learn that the Progressive Conservatives Party of Ontario adopted a brownfields position, based on OREA’s recommendations, at their Policy Convention held in London two weeks ago. Although it is not guaranteed that it will make their party platform, REALTORS® applaud and support their efforts and encourage all parties to work with OREA to promote brownfield redevelopment.