Tax cut of 50% temporary relief for Yonge Street businesses, but their future is still uncertain

Some small businesses along Yonge Street are breathing a sigh of relief after a massive property tax increase earlier this year was reassessed and cut in half.

'We're roadkill,' says one business owner about condo boom in Toronto

The Yonge Street Small Business Association met Thursday night to talk about the next step in protecting their stores from future tax increases. (Gary Asselstine/CBC)

Some small businesses along Yonge Street are breathing a sigh of relief after a massive property tax increase handed down earlier this year was reassessed and cut in half.

In a meeting of the Yonge Street Small Business Association on Thursday night, a crowd of about 20 store owners shared their good news with each other.

Earlier this year, owners of dozens of Yonge Street commercial properties were shocked to find their tax bills had doubled.

However, despite the immediate relief, there was some fear about what will happen to taxes in the future.

"It's obvious the city would like us all to go," business owner John Anderson told the crowd

John Anderson, owner of Morningstar Trading on Yonge Street, uses a prop to show how he thinks Mayor Tory has been 'pointing fingers' at the province for the property tax increases the city is seeing. (Ieva Lucs/CBC)

"You might get through the first year and survive, but they'll get you in the second year. Or the third or fourth."

The crowd nodded and sighed. One woman called out: "They're like the Mafia — they put their feet on our throats."

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam had called for the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), a not-for-profit corporation that assesses and classifies all properties in Ontario, to conduct the reassessment.

"The first move was to get immediate tax relief," Wong-Tam told CBC Toronto. "But the reassessments will come out in another four years and we don't want to get caught in the cycle again."

Protest signs over tax increases to businesses along Yonge Street are scattered throughout Morningstar Trading. (Ieva Lucs/CBC)

In Toronto, the property tax for a commercial space is determined by the building's current assessed value and then multiplied by about 2.5 per cent.

When nearby homes are selling for tens of thousands of dollars over asking, prices for all types of properties in the area go up. So when MPAC comes around to rate a property, it bases its value on which buildings sold in the area and for what price.

The councillor says the next step is to try to create a new small business classification just for Toronto. She is working with MPAC, the city's financial services staff and Jeff Leal, Ontario's minister responsible for small business.

"[Leal] heard from constituents that they're concerned about the way MPAC creates a one-size-fits-all approach," said Wong-Tam.

'We're roadkill. They don't care about us'

"We're just a bunch of small business guys trying to survive," Anderson, who owns Morningstar Trading, a furniture store between Isabella and Gloucester streets, told CBC Toronto.

"We're roadkill. They don't care about us."

Wong-Tam said these small businesses define neighbourhoods, and are the reason Toronto streets have so much character.

"Large shops have a mono culture. When they roll through a neighbourhood it creates a boring streetscape," she said. "We want to create an environment where small businesses can flourish and be competitive and succeed."

With files from Julia Whalen, Natalie Nanowski and Lauren Pelley