The issue came up during council’s June 28 session and administration was directed to review the situation. A report presented during the September 13 council session stated that the municipality at present has adequate legal means to deal with abandoned or derelict properties that have been vacant for a long period of time.
"The abandoned house problem is not unique to Hawkesbury," the report stated. "It only takes a quick search to realize that most municipalities in Ontario, and even (elsewhere in) Canada are faced with this dilemma."
The town keeps track of some vacant or derelict properties in cases where there may be concerns about building code issues, poor maintenance of the property, or unpaid property taxes. At present there are four properties in Hawkesbury identified in municipal files as "abandoned or boarded up". Two are listed for unpaid taxes, but one has a notice in its file that a private sale may soon occur, while the other one has one year of taxes in arrears. The other two are both up to date on property tax payments.
The town has the authority to deal with abandoned houses where public health and safety is at risk or where poor property maintenance is involved. Both situations involve inspections as part of the review process for either a demolition order or a demand for the property owner to deal with any problems or face legal penalties. The town can also act if a suspect abandoned house has unpaid property taxes and the owner shows no sign of planning to deal with the taxes in arrears.
The report noted that the Toronto has a vacant home tax policy and that Ottawa is also considering such a policy, but smaller municipalities like Hawkesbury may not resources, both staff and financial, to pursue that kind of policy.
Council accepted the report’s conclusion that the municipality should continue to use existing policies and be vigilant to deal with any abandoned house issues.
"Once the legal process starts," said Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis, "we can sometimes get results. It is still worthwhile to chase down these abandoned buildings (owners). This does reflect upon our community."