Putting the brakes on tax breaks

A vote on a proposed property tax break for new residential development has been delayed two weeks. City council sent the proposal back for more study on Monday.

A vote on a proposed property tax break for new residential development has been delayed two weeks.

City council sent the proposal back for more study on Monday.

The tax incentive policy offers tax breaks of up to $10,000 for garden suites and in-home suites, up to $50,000 for new multi-family units, and $500,000 for large rental developments.

If it had gone to a vote this week, there was a chance that council might kill the proposal, said Mayor Bev Buckway.

“Delaying it two weeks gives us a chance for more discussion rather than simply turning it down,” she said.

Delaying the incentives is disappointing development for the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, which has been calling for an incentive policy like this for years.

“We’ve done enough thinking, enough consulting, enough studies, it’s just time to take action,” said Rick Karp, president of the chamber. “We’ve lost that mobility within the housing market and that’s what we have to get back.”

With a vacancy rate of 1.2 per cent, the severe lack of affordable housing is having a serious effect on business in the city.

“It’s a big detriment to us,” said Karp. “Quite honestly businesses are really suffering right now in terms of getting and keeping the staff because of this housing issue.”

More than 40 per cent of businesses surveyed by the chamber are having trouble attracting and retaining employees because of the housing shortage.

“We are not going to sustain the transfer payments from the federal government,” said Karp. “The only way to keep our lifestyle in the Yukon is to develop the private sector. In order to do that we’ve got to resolve the housing issue.”

Since the government helped create this problem, by not making enough land available to meet demand, it has to be part of the solution, said Karp.

But Coun. Doug Graham disagrees with the tax breaks.

“I don’t really agree with incentives,” he said. “If it isn’t economically feasible without government help, believe me, it’s not going to be economically feasible with a little help from government.”

His opposition to the policy is ideological, but it is informed by experience.

“All we have to do is look back at the old Watson Lake sawmill and the attempt to restart the Faro mine,” said Graham. “There were millions of dollars and subsides that went into that, and you see what happened there. None of them are with us anymore.”

Council met on Wednesday to tweak the proposal.

Amendments were added that require the policy to be reviewed by council after a set period of time, and to clarify how it could be applied to things like phased developments.

“I suspect that there are enough councillors to support it and the policy will go through,” said Buckway.

However, Graham remains opposed.

While he may disagree with the chamber on how best to spur development, they both agree that it is something best left to the private sector.

“Governments are supposed to be there to give incentives to kick-start development,” said Karp. “We researched many other jurisdictions and all of them have incentive programs for private developers to get downtown revitalization and to get entry-level apartment buildings put up. There’s all sorts of incentives out there, everywhere but here.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chloe Tatsumi dismounts the balance beam to cap her routine during the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on May 1. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Gymnasts vie in 2021 Yukon Championships

In a year without competition because of COVID-19, the Polarettes Gymnastics Club hosted its Yukon Championships.

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Yukon Budget 2.0

If the banks that finance the Yukon’s growing debt were the only… Continue reading

Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan dismissed an application on May 3 seeking more transparity on the territory’s state of emergency declaration. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Supreme Court rules confidential memo can’t be used in challenge of state of emergency

Court upholds cabinet confidentiality after request to use internal government memo as evidence.

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 7, 2021.… Continue reading

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

Most Read