Developers who want to benefit from City of Whitehorse housing incentives will be subject to a new policy following Whitehorse city council’s Feb. 10 meeting.
There, council approved the new policy after having deferred a decision in January amid questions and concerns over how the incentives would be applied.
Under the original policy, developers received a grant towards their property taxes. The amount of the grant is dependent on what type of development is put in place, but certain conditions had to be met.
The new policy is focused solely on housing, specifically higher density developments as well as supportive and rental housing.
Rather than provide grants for taxes, incentives for nearly all categories will come through grants for a portion or all of the development cost charges (DCCs).
The exception is for rental and supportive housing developments, which would see approved projects receive up to $500,000 in reduced development cost charges and a 10-year tax grant for developing a minimum of four rental units operated for at least 10 years or a minimum of four supportive living units.
Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, said the policy is designed to reflect city goals such as more attainable housing and more compact development throughout Whitehorse.
“The policy more clearly targets assistance towards supportive housing and private market rental housing projects,” Gau said. “It continues the 10-year grant for rental or supportive housing projects of four or more units (this was part of the former policy), and expands the assistance available for these types of projects by also waiving the Development Cost Charges that would normally apply.”
As part of the city’s effort to see higher density developments, there are density requirements to be met in certain categories. To receive an incentive under the neighbourhood density development category, for example, developers must build at least 90 per cent of the maximum rental units in the comprehensive residential multiple family zone. Meanwhile, under the multi-family zone development incentive, developers must build to a density 50 per cent higher than the minimum required.
Whitehorse is expecting a population increase of more than 11,000 people over the next 20 years, Gau said.
“That means that the supply of housing will need to increase by approximately 5,000 dwellings.”
Gau said the city’s existing neighborhoods have space where development could happen.
Ensuring city assets like the water and sewer system, roads, garbage collection and more are “used in the most sustainable and fiscally responsible way, it will be important to ensure that this additional housing is accommodated within the city’s existing neighborhoods where possible.”
The housing incentives are one way to encourage more compact development, Gau said.
Before council voted in favour of the policy, members approved an amendment put forward by Coun. Dan Boyd, which changed the wording of the policy statement to reflect the focus on attainable housing and other goals that were outlined.
Coun. Steve Roddick said he was pleased with the new policy and the focus on more compact development as well as rental and supportive housing. Overall, the city has been shifting its focus to those areas in recent years.
“I’m glad to see we’re formalizing that,” he said.
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