Northern Vision Development is planning on building luxury condos by the Yukon River along Waterfront Place, seen in this screen grab highlighted in red.

Despite misgivings, Whitehorse council approves condo incentive

‘I’m wondering if NVD really, really needs this money so desperately’

The City of Whitehorse approved a $500,000 development incentive agreement for a 44-unit condo development downtown.

The development, a project of Northern Vision Development (NVD), is the second phase of River’s Reach. Located at 36 and 38 Waterfront Place, it will abut phase one, which includes 20 luxury condos on the Yukon River. Phase one was completed in 2011.

Though mayor and councillors ultimately supported the agreement, there was some discussion of the high-end nature of the development (unit prices range from just below $400,000 to over $800,000).

“While I too am pleased to see the possibility of 44 residential units going up, because we certainly do need housing, I am somewhat disappointed that this will be a condominium type housing arrangement because we do need more rental supportive housing,” said Coun. Betty Irwin during the May 7 council meeting.

“And the development incentives policy was meant to encourage the development of rental and supportive housing.… I’m wondering if NVD really, really needs this money so desperately, and if the project would go ahead if they did not receive this.”

Rich Thompson, CEO of NVD, told the News on May 2 that margins on such projects are so thin, incentives are key to getting them off the ground.

In council, Mayor Dan Curtis said that while the development initiatives policy may change, right now, the NVD proposal fits the criteria. That means it’s eligible for a yearly grant from the city, based on the increased taxes payable due to improvements on the property. Major developments are eligible for up to $500,000, payable over 10 years.

“The city of Whitehorse is not really into affordable housing per se,” said Curtis. “We’re into development and we’re into sustainable housing and sustainable living.”

He said it’s important to remember the city does have a variety of housing stock. He pointed to affordable housing projects that have recently been supported by the city, including the Challenge building and Blood Ties’ tiny house project.

He said this development represents a $25 million investment in the city, and said it won’t be long before the building starts contributing to the city’s tax base.

The condos will be available by fall 2019 and early winter 2019.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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