Small business owners on Yonge Street say they feel they’re being forced to sell or close their shops after what they call a drastic and unprecedented increase in their property taxes.
The spike will reportedly mean that owners will see their bills go up 100%.
Sanjoy Kandu and his family’s business Theatrics Plus has been operating on Yonge Street since the 1970’s. He says they’ve never seen a hike like this one in the 47 years they’ve been on the strip.
“For the 2016 fiscal year we were assessed $20,000 for my property taxes, the following year another $20,000…after four years I’ll be paying $100,000 in property taxes”.
He says at this point, it’s become a challenge to stay in business for even another year and he’s not the only one.
George Giaouris is the owner of Northbound Leather. His retail space used to be a lot bigger but he’s been forced to use only a third of his building and lease out the rest to make ends meet.
He says it’s tough enough for small businesses on Yonge street to survive, especially with construction and limited access to some businesses. Add the sudden increase in taxes, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
“What I think should have happened is some consideration for loss of business during all of this construction and if anything, we should have got a rebate or some relief on our taxes until the street recovers”.
He says he’s more worried about the wider repercussions of this tax increase, fearing it will affect the livelihoods of not just the owners, but also the workers they employ.
“I write 18 paychecks. If this place goes out, that’s 18 people out of work, 18 families affected. Is this tax increase really going to benefit the city if that many people are unemployed because we’re being taxed unfairly?” he asks.
Last week, House of Lords, which as been around since the 1960’s, folded under the pressure of the increased property tax. More recently, Elliott’s bookshop – one of the oldest used bookstores left in the city- announced it too will be closing.
Kundu says at this rate, Yonge Street’s heritage and identity will soon disappear.
“All you see is glass towers, I don’t think that’s beautiful…Yonge Street used to have character”.
The Yonge Street small business association is reaching out to both the city and the province for help. They have a meeting scheduled with the province on Aug. 18.