Mah’s Point 2 condo complex signage on Second Avenue in 2018. There has been extensive redevelopment in the downtown with a number of new units built or being built and changes could be coming to the City of Whitehorse’s development incentive policy aim to support projects on the housing continuum that are not being adequately provided by the market. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

City of Whitehorse proposes major changes to housing development incentives

Focus would be on rentals and supportive housing

Major changes could be coming to the City of Whitehorse’s development incentive policy which provides grants towards property taxes for developers building certain types of housing in the city.

City planner Kinden Kosick brought forward the updated policy to Whitehorse city council Jan. 20 ahead of a media briefing Jan. 21.

Incentives were first introduced in 2012 as a way of encouraging redevelopment of vacant or underused properties in the downtown.

A total of 158 projects – or 342 living units – have benefitted from the incentives over the years with the Yukon Housing Corporation’s Municipal Matching Grant also providing matching amounts in some cases for rental housing.

There has been extensive redevelopment in the downtown with a number of new units built or being built and the proposed update “aims to support projects on the housing continuum that are not being adequately provided by the market,” Kosick told reporters.

Under the changes, the incentives for commercial developments and general market housing, such as downtown condos, would be eliminated with a focus on densification near city services, supportive and rental housing development.

City staff are also proposing changes to how the grant is provided. The incentives would now come through grants for a portion or all of the development cost charges. That’s instead of the current system which provides a tax grant annually for up to 10 years.

Kosick said the change means more immediate cost savings for developers and less administrative burden.

In an emailed statement, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Simpson said the chamber’s housing committee chair met with city staff to discuss the new policy and potential provisions for it.

“The proposed revisions address issues and close gaps in the existing policy, and we consider the proposed changes to be enhancements that will make the policy more effective,” she said.

There would be no changes for those developing legal suites in their homes or on their property as the current $2,185 development cost charge for approved secondary and garden suites would continue.

Under the new system, developers could get a reduction in development cost charges to a maximum of $50,000 for developing residential units in neighbourhood commercial zones, outside of the downtown, within 400 metres of neighbourhood services or to 90 per cent density in the comprehensive residential multi-family zone.

Currently developers receive a 10-year tax grant to a maximum of $50,000 for mixed-use developments in neighbourhood commercial zones or a minimum of four residential units the multi-unit buildings downtown.

The plan would do away with the city’s major development incentive for large projects and create three new categories.

Developers would receive an unlimited grant for development cost charges for residential units in the multi-family zone where the density is at least 50 per cent more than required.

The rental and supportive housing development would provide up to $500,000 in reduced development cost charges and a 10 year tax grant (the only category to be considered for a tax grant under the proposal) for developing a minimum of four rental units operated for at least 10 years or a minimum of four supportive living units.

Finally the non-profit and non-governmental organization development incentive would provide a grant equal to the cost of City of Whitehorse development fees to a maximum of $20,000 with a cash grant for “purpose built, subsidized rental or supportive housing”. There’s also a provision for a deferred payment if the non-profit or NGO is buying property from the city for the development.

Among the various developments to be approved for the incentive over the years is a Copper Ridge apartment building, the Blood Ties Four Directions tiny home project downtown and the River’s Reach condos off Waterfront Place near Quartz Road.

Coun. Dan Boyd voiced concerns over the higher density required for residential units in the multi-family zone.

Boyd pointed to residents who came forward to council a week earlier taking issue over parking proposed for a proposed development on Range Road. Boyd pointed out higher density developments are impacting parking.

“It is pushing parking to the streets,” he said, suggesting there should be some consideration for lowering density requirements.

Kosick noted that the area where 90 per cent density would be required for the incentive is in Whistle Bend and under the multi-family zoning there would be one parking space required per unit.

He went into further detail during the briefing, pointing out there is a review of the Official Community Plan (OCP) underway and a review of the city’s zoning bylaw would follow. It’s through the OCP and zoning bylaw that the city could look at changes to parking requirements.

Coun. Steve Roddick however, suggested it may be more of an issue of parking management. He pointed out other jurisdictions have put in place regulations – no on-street parking, for example – to address those issues and bringing about changes in how residents choose to get around their community.

Council will vote on the policy Jan. 27.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Housing MarketWhitehorse city council

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